Demystifying Galina Ustvolskaya: Critical Examination and Performance Interpretation.

Nalimova, Elena. 2012. Demystifying Galina Ustvolskaya: Critical Examination and Performance Interpretation.. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Doctoral thesis)
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Abstract or Description

This thesis presents a performer’s view of Galina Ustvolskaya and her music with the aim of demystifying her artistic persona. The author examines the creation of ‘Ustvolskaya Myth’ by critically analysing Soviet, Russian and Western literature sources, oral history on the subject and the composer’s personal recollections, and reveals paradoxes and parochial misunderstandings of Ustvolskaya’s personality and the origins of her music. Having examined all the available sources, the author argues that the ‘Ustvolskaya Myth’ was a self-made phenomenon that persisted due to insufficient knowledge on the subject.

In support of the argument, the thesis offers a performer’s interpretation of Ustvolskaya as she is revealed in her music. The author examines Ustvolskaya’s music from two viewpoints, a scholar and a performer, and draws upon inter-textual connections between Ustvolskaya’s music and Russian literature (Gogol, Dostoevsky, oberiuty) and aesthetics; analyses the influences of Russian musical traditions (Russian folklore, znamenny raspev) and some artistic individuals (Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky), and examines the nature of Ustvolskaya’s spirituality and religiosity. The performance aspects of Ustvolskaya’s music are discussed as well as the specific nature of her writing for instruments, particularly the piano, and the interpretation and perception of her music by both the performers and the audience.

The thesis examines the performance history of Ustvolskaya’s works, and draws on interview materials with musicians who knew the composer and performed her music. The author’s own performance experience and that derived from the ‘Ustvolskaya at Chetham’s’ project which involved young musicians in studying and performing Ustvolskaya’s compositions, underlined the practical value of the research. While supporting the view of Ustvolskaya as a singular composer, the thesis stands to demystify and reevaluate her artistic image.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


Galina Ustvolskaya, performance practice, performance interpretation

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



10 October 2012

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Date Deposited:

26 Apr 2013 14:59

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:51


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