Tuesday, December 3, 2019

CU program at Music at the Wende: December 6th, 2019 with Live Streaming

Between Revolutions:

Human Triumph over Tragedy in the Soviet Experiment

Classical Underground is extremely excited and honored to be invited by a very unique, growing and prestigious museum in Culver City - The Wende Museum - the institution preserving the Cold War artifacts and cultural history - to curate our program at their popular Music at the Wende Series!

Friday, December 6, 2019
7 p.m.: Museum tour and reception
8 p.m.: Concert
Address: The Wende Museum.  10808 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90230
The event is now at capacity. To join the waitlist, please email info@wendemuseum.org

GREAT NEWS: if you are not able to attend, you can still watch it! The performance will be live-streamed via Museum's Facebook page, starting at 8 p.m. on Friday evening at:  https://www.facebook.com/wendemuseum/

Classical Undergrounds presents a performance of Soviet-period instrumental and vocal music, including works by Dmitri Shostakovich, Matvey Blanter, Vadim Kozin, Alexander Vertinsky, Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Rodion Shchedrin.

Featured Musicians:
The Hollywood Piano Trio: Inna Faliks, piano; Roberto Cani, violin; Eric Byers, cello
Evgeny Tonkha, cello
Inna Faliks, piano
Timur, tenor
Jane Lin, piano
Space is limited.  For more information on the event please go to: http://wendemuseum.org/programs/music-wende-classical-underground-presents-between-revolutions-human-triumph-over-tragedy-s

Supported by the Music at the Wende Donor Group and the Steinway Piano Gallery Los Angeles.


the 1958 masterpiece of Soviet Art by Leonid Steele

Leonid M. Steele  "Boiler Revetting Worker: The Wood Grouse",
1958 oil on canvas, 53 x 39 ins

My father Leonid Steele was an important master of the Socialist Realism period in Russian art, a 1953 graduate of the famed Repin Academy in Leningrad, one of the pioneers of the “severe style” and a great embodiment of Russia's venerable cultural tradition of “going to the people." Like his cultural forebears, “peopolists”(“narodniki”) and the artists of the "peredvizhnik" movement, he believed that the people from the far reaches of society, far away villages and factories, are the best and most important source for the serious Art. He also believed that these very same people also are the ones who need the exposure to Art the most. He believed the vitality and necessity of Art shows itself in the clearest way in such context.

A child of the devastating Civil War being born in the middle of it in 1921 in Ukraine,  the survivor of infamous “golodomor” of 1933 in Ukraine, the survivor of peritonitis while in the Red Army in 1939 and then after barely recovering, survivor of the severe air bomb concussion during the First Siege of Kharkov in 1941 he saw the unfathomable suffering, like many in his great generation. Yet, despite it and perhaps because of it, he was the insuppressible believer in humanity. He believed that his art was there to help others to survive and to overcome the same way he was able to. He believed it was his duty as an artist to stand witness to and for his work to be an evidence of human dignity and noble value in midst of dehumanizing world of never ending tragedy.

This belief resulted in my dad's continuous journeys away from big cities in his quest for true characters and subjects. This quest fueled his remarkable oeuvre with humanistic representations of his era, and became a foundation for his iconic masterpieces of epic multi-figure paintings.

Dad’s 1958 painting “Wood Grouse. Boiler Riveting Worker (Gluhar)” is depicting a worker with the heavy rivet gun in a deafening noise inside enclosed iron boiler without any ear protection with the expression at once vulnerable, determined and condemned. It is one of his most powerful visual testimonies to the insuppressible strength of his people who persevered over anything the brutal system threw their way the testimony to the triumph of the people and of their art.

Between Revolutions: Human Triumph over Tragedy in Soviet Experiment

When we look at the historic artforms and expressions, it is important to understand their context for deeper appreciation of their experience and meaning. The unique academic environment of the Wende Museum of Cold War offers a rare opportunity to examine and experience the art of the former USSR while surrounded by the rare presentation of authentic artifacts which witnessed history that produced this art.  

The Experiment

There were a lot of tragedies throughout long human history marked by human greed for power that spares no cost and knows no limits.

The Soviet experiment driven by genuine idealism of the entire generation of the intelligencia in the Russian empire coupled with catastrophic corruption of its failed system, that would rather die than break its habit of usurping power, led to a collapse that no-one saw coming with the human cost no-one could have fathom. 

Jubilation of the revolution was quickly followed by the horrors of waves of terror surpassing anything in French Revolution which inspired its instigators and eventually swallowing most of them.

The Tragedy

The cost to society turned staggering.

Red Terror September 1918 - February 1922 Including political campaign of “decossakization” approximately 150 000 victims based not on any perceived offense but solely based on belonging to the unwanted social class - members of old nobility, lawyers, professors - summarily executed, mass atrocities, starvation and first political concentration camps.
- Civil War 1918 - 1922 - 8 million perished.
- Famine of 1932-1933 including Golodomor in Ukraine, starvation on Don River and Kazakhstan, part of “liquidation of kulak as class” political campaign - class targeted genocide and forced collectivization - 7 million. 
- Great Purge 1936 - 1938 – the mass repressions within rank and file of the Communist Party and Red Army, continuous political campaigns of “Kulak liquidation as class” and Militant Godless League campaign of state atheism - 1.2 million executed and died in the Gulag system of political concentration camps.
- Great Patriotic War (Eastern Front of the WWII) - 35 million dead, compare to 5.1 million for Germany.

51 million 350 thousand people - this is the extent of human tragedy after Russian Revolution until the next revolution of 1991.

The culture and the entire civilization were shaped and defined by this scale of tragedy. Hyperinflations, starvations, redenominations of currencies, abandonment of any concept of individual guilt or responsibility for either persecuted or persecuting had become the norm for decades.

For the persecuted it was irrelevant whether any wrong was committed against the soviet state, it was decided for them by the persecutors for whom in tern it was not an individual choice, but rather the duty to a state to enforce the current political campaign. Participating in persecuting of someone was perceived by many as the best rout not to be persecuted themselves in midst of dreadful anticipation who is to be declared “an enemy of the people” next.   As the old Soviet galley humor joke would say: “a question at the NKVD (KGB predecessor) interrogation - what did you do in the years of party line wiggling? The answer – I was duly wiggling along with the party line.” People became survivors. It is very difficult to ever judge people who are forced to face survival.

The life for those who did not die or escape became the life among KGB snitches and rats eagerly willing to betray their neighbor on the also unseen scale.

Those were the conditions in which life had to somehow persist and the humanity proved itself more resilient than the unfathomable terror. In a world of double talk and double think the opportunity for people to cry and to laugh genuinely had become the force of resistance. The affirmation of human dignity became the essence of survival.

This was the meaning and the role of art within the contextual conditions of Soviet Experiment.

Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.

Martin LatsisRed Terror Magazine, 1918

To overcome our enemies we must have our own socialist militarism. We must carry along with us 90 million out of the 100 million of Soviet Russia's population. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated.
       - Grigory Zinoviev, 1918

Essential to organise a reinforced guard of selected and reliable people, to carry out a campaign of ruthless mass terror against the kulaks, priests and whiteguards; suspects to be shut up in a detention camp outside the city." Lenin, August 1918

The Triumph

The Classical Underground program and Showcase at the Wende Museum are dedicated to the triumph of those who perished innocently and survived with dignity.