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Book: Shostakovich and Stalin Author: Solomon Volkov Price: Little, Brown, £14.99

Is there any other recent composer whose stock has fluctuated as widely and as frequently as Shostakovich’s? Lauded as the last great symphonist (Sergei Koussevitsky called his eighth symphony the greatest since Beethoven), scorned as an anachronistic irrelevance (Bartók parodied him cruelly, Stravinsky thought him unworthy of notice), by turns praised and damned in both the Soviet Union and the west, Shostakovich was, even by the terrible standards of the 20th century, exceptionally victimised by politics.

Politics of the conventional variety, yes: he lived through a revolution and a…

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