The two composers were separated by the Iron Curtain and language but united by their art and their deep admiration for each others’ music. A new bi-cultural orchestra inspired by their friendship pays tribute to their common cause

Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich knew of each other long before they met in 1960. Shostakovich would certainly have encountered Britten’s name in 1948 when the English composer was among western musicians attacked as “decadent and bourgeois” by the Russian composer Boris Asafiev during the debacle of the Soviet Union’s drive against formalism in music. Shostakovich was forced to repeat these words at the World Peace Congress in New York in 1949. The 23-year-old Britten first heard of Shostakovich more than a decade earlier, two months after the Russian composer’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk had been denounced in a famous Pravda editorial penned at Stalin’s behest – Muddle Instead of Music – criticising…

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