Khrennikov's Seven

From Unearthing The Music

Khrennikov's Seven (Russian: Хренниковская семёрка or Семёрка Хренникова) was a group of seven Russian Soviet composers denounced in 1979 at the Sixth Congress of the Composers' Union by its leader Tikhon Khrennikov for the unapproved participation in some festivals of Soviet music in the West, particularly the Encounter with the Soviet Union festival in Cologne in March, 1979 [3]. Khrennikov described their music as "pointlessness... and noisy mud instead of real musical innovation". The seven composers named (in this order) were Elena Firsova, Dmitri Smirnov, Alexander Knaifel, Viktor Suslin, Vyacheslav Artyomov, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Edison Denisov.

These composers subsequently suffered restrictions on the performance and publication of their music, particularly on Denisov and his students Firsova and Smirnov.[1][3] The restrictions on Denisov’s music also crossed the state borders. Concert programs were changed and Denisov’s compositions were withdrawn from events. For example, The Sun of the Incas, to be performed in Sofa, was banned and it was cancelled in Austria in 1981 along with Silhouettes and Ode. Khrennikov’s condemnation also caused serious economic diffculties for Gubaidulina and Suslin.[3]

Inexplicably, other composers whose works were also performed at the same festival were not listed. Among them were Sergey Slonimsky, Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, Valentin Silvestrov and Dmitri Shostakovich.[3] The tone of the denunciation harked back to the First Congress of 1948, at which Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Myaskovsky, Klebanov, and others were victimized.

By 1991 four of the seven had left the Soviet Union (all but Knaifel, Denisov and Artyomov), Denisov left the country in 1994 and died in Paris two years later.


"In 1979, the Communist Party tried to bring these rebels [a group of younger composers known as "unofficial" composers] to heel. The egregious hack Tikhon Khrennikov, head of the Soviet Composers' Union, attacked seven of them by name in terms that were an unintended compliment: he called their music 'not representative of the work of Soviet composers'." (Gerard McBurney)

"The 'bad days' returned in November 1979, when at the Sixth Congress of the Composer's Union, the music of the so-called 'Khrennikov Seven' was criticised as 'pointlessness ... and noisy mud instead of real musical innovation' ... This victimisation came in connection with their participation in the Cologne festival. An administrative punishment was made, preventing them from being performed on the radio and television, and prohibiting the publication of their scores. The leaders of the Composer's Union also proclaimed the policy of 'divide and rule', and Schnittke, who previously had been harshly criticised, was suddenly given official recognition." (Dmitri Smirnov: Song from Underground 1)[2]



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Text adapted from Wikipedia