Dmitri Smirnov (1948)

I can write of Dmitri Smirnov what I wrote of his wife, composer Elena Firsova, just interchanging both names and grammatical genders: he is part of a generation of composers from the Soviet area come to age in the stultified late-Brezhnev years, and who, whether they did it overtly or covertly, invented their own brand of “modernism” which wasn’t just an imitation of the trends in vogue in the West. He is by the way the husband of composer Elena Firsova, and, with her, one of the seven who had the honors of being violently denounced by musical Komissar-in-chief Tikhon Krennikov in 1979 – the others were Gubaidulina, Denisov (members of a generation born 20 years earlier), Viktor Suslin, Vyacheslav Artyomov, and Alexander Knaifel – for some reason, Schnittke didn’t get the honor. In 1992, the year of the demise of the Soviet Union, Firsova and Smirnov moved to England, and later received the British citizenship. They are still there. One of the things I like about the two is that, like Gubaïdulina and Denisov but unlike other from those generations of Soviet composers, like Silvestrov or Pärt and to an extent Artyomov, they never lapsed into a kind of mystical, neo-tonal neo-simplicity, never relinquished their ideal of composing music that remained “modern” and demanding.

Here are my reviews of Smirnov’s works:

String Quartet No. 2 (1985), in Stravinsky, Schnittke, Smirnov, Roslavets, Firsova: Music for String Quartet, by the Chilingirian Quartet. Conifer Classics 75605 51252 2 (1995), reissued on RCA/Catalyst 82876642832 2 (2004)

An Introduction to Dmitri Smirnov. Patricia Kopatchinskaya (violin), Alexander Ivashkin (cello), Ivan Sokolov (piano). Megadisc Classics MCD 7818 (2002)

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