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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

Music in “Woe To Wit”

Asafiev Boris Vladimirovich

125009, Russia, g. Moscow, ul. Bol'shaya Nikitskaya, 13/6
Other publications by this author







Abstract: The subject of this work is the article of B. V. Asafiev about the comedy production of Alexander Sergeevich Griboyedov “Woe from Wit” realized by Vsevolod Meyerhold in 1928. Asafiev, a famous Russian and Soviet historian and theoretician of music and renowned composer, also took part in creation of this spectacle: he was selecting music that would illustrate the inner image of the characters. The goal of this article became his argumentation of this selection, especially the forming of the psychological likeness of the main character – Chatsky. The key point became Asafiev’s claim about musical characteristics as most active in manifestation of the essence of the character. The author compares the Sturm und Drang era with the times of Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert, and German Lied. Going analytically deeper into the music of Beethoven, the author highlights its multifacetedness, while turning to Mozart – he underlines in it not brightness, but the opposite, the features of the “world-pain”. In theatrological sense Asafiev counterposes the images of Chatsky and Famusov as irreconcilable, gives attention to the logic of the dialogues and ensembles, and the tempos of development of the play. He demonstrates, for example, the tones of French “happy” songs, to convey the street and drawing room vulgarity. As a result, characterizing Griboyedov’s famous comedy through music, Asafiev unfolds a broad musical panorama that includes in addition to the mentioned composers works of Bach, Field, and Wagner. The publication of this forgotten article sheds light on the collaboration between Asafiev and Meyerhold in both, the theatrical aspect, as well as the stage in development of the Asafiev’s intonation theory.


Asafiev, Meyerhold, Griboyedov, Beethoven, drama theatre, improvisation, music-historical eras, styles, Russian person, theatrical characters

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