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Pakhmutova, Alexandra (1929—)

Pakhmutova, Alexandra (1929—)

Russian composer whose work was enormously popular. Name variations: Alexandra Nikolaievna Pakhmutova. Born in Beketovka, near Stalingrad, USSR (now Volgograd, Russia), on November 9, 1929; studied at the Moscow Conservatory, graduating in 1953; continued to do post-graduate work at the Moscow Conservatory, concentrating on composition studies with Vladimir Shebalin.

Named "Artist of the USSR" (1977).

In the post-Stalinist Soviet Union, there were periods when optimists felt that, with luck and effort, the system could be made to work, and that in time it would evolve into an essentially humane society free of oppression. This spirit was sometimes reflected, if only imperfectly, in music. One of the most optimistic composers of the late Soviet period was Alexandra Pakhmutova. Born into modest circumstances in 1929, just as the Stalinist regime was tightening its grip on Soviet life, she survived the privations of World War II, graduating from the Moscow Conservatory in 1953, the year of dictator Joseph Stalin's death. Pakhmutova discovered her artistic metier in 1955, when her bouncy Trumpet Concerto was given its premiere in Moscow on June 11 of that year. This work became immensely popular in the USSR and a recording of it was even available in the West. Equally favored throughout the 1960s and 1970s were Pakhmutova's urban ballads, songs meant to mirror Soviet reality by alluding to pressing problems but within an essentially positive framework. Using simple texts, these songs praised Soviet achievements in space, reminded Soviet citizens of their duty to believe in a better future, or simply reminded listeners, as she did in a 1974 song, there was always "Hope." The composer's more orthodox side could be seen in her 1957 suite for narrator, children's chorus and orchestra, Lenin is in Our Hearts. Pakhmutova never claimed to be a profound artist; her compositions were simple, optimistic and joyful, and while her music may not have accurately reflected Soviet life, it echoed the hopes of those who believed that their society was still capable of being reformed by people of good will.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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