Monthly Archives: March 2014

Six, A History of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service – Part 1: Murder and Mayhem 1909-1939 by Michael Smith

This is a well written account of SIS. I am familiar with much of the material, eg the story of Sidney Reilly. However, I did not know about SIS involvement in the murder of Rasputin.
The Zinoviev Letter seemed interesting.

I also didn’t know about Johan de Graaf and his work in China and Brazil — undermining the efforts of the Comintern. I’d like to read a history of the latter.

I would read any subsequent volumes.

Five Operas and a Symphony: Word and Music in Russian Culture by Boris Gasparov

This analyses Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila, Chaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Musorgsky’s Kovanshchina, Chaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony, and Puccini’s Turandot.

The chapter on Shostakovich gave some good insight into music and culture in the Soviet Union. His 2nd and 3rd symphonies were traditional avant-garde. Whereas the 4th (1936) to the 10th (1953) were ‘high Stalin-ist’ in contrast to the 11th to 15th. The 4th was seems to fit into a proletarian Stakhanovite mold along with current literature and film scores.