Vladislav Shoot obituary

·3 min read

My friend Vladislav Shoot, who has died aged 81, considered himself a Ukrainian-born Russian-British composer. Slava belonged to the post-Shostakovich generation of Soviet composers who emerged in the late 1950s and 60s, the time of Nikita Khrushchev and the early Leonid Brezhnev regime.

Soviet commentators called such composers “avant garde” or “modernist”, but they were really just looking for freedom to move beyond the stale demands of Stalinist “socialist realism”. They wanted to make something new.

Vladislav Shut – he later chose the transliteration “Shoot” to avoid mispronunciation – was born in the southern Ukrainian city of Voznesensk, the son of Alexei Shut, a naval officer, and Valentina (nee Nizovaya), neither of whom were interested in the arts. Due to the nature of his father’s work, Vladislav went to several secondary schools, including one in Georgia and School N14 in Sevastopol, where the family settled. Growing up on the shores of the Black Sea, he discovered music by himself, and this led him to the Gnessin State Musical College in Moscow, where he studied, with the composer Nikolai Peiko, graduating in 1967.

For the next 20 years or so, as well as producing a scattering of film scores, Vladislav earned a living as an editor at the Moscow music publishing house Sovetskii Kompozitor, while building up a catalogue of his own music.

At the heart of the first half of his career are the first four of his seven chamber symphonies, compositions that caused official irritation for their quirkiness and unpredictability, and his chamber-orchestral Romantic Messages (1979), which provoked similar annoyance for playing “disrespectfully” with the opening of Mozart’s 40th Symphony.

This piece, and several others from the same period, include virtuoso parts for solo bassoon, reflecting the young Vladislav’s friendship with Valery Popov, a pioneer of woodwind playing in the USSR. Another important composition of this same period was Ex Animo (1988) for large orchestra, which he himself considered autobiographical.

He met Irina Karpey, an artist, in Moscow in 1969; they married the following year. In 1992, they and their two young children moved to Dartington Hall in Devon, where Vladislav was composer-in-residence for two years. He settled there, becoming a British citizen in 1999, and completing another large orchestral composition, High Cross Symphony (1998), named after the modernist house of that name on the Dartington estate.

It was commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and premiered under the conductor Martyn Brabbins, a champion of Vladislav’s music, at the Royal Festival Hall in December 2000.

In company, Slava was warmly hospitable, with a chuckling laugh, a terrific knowledge of literature and a fine repertoire of Russian jokes, but underneath there was always stillness and humility. It was for the stillness – so different from their earlier life in Moscow – that he and Irina so loved the landscapes around Dartington. “Paradise”, he called it, and, come rain or shine, they went walking every day.

Vladislav is survived by Irina, their children, Veronika, a pianist, and Eli, a composer, and five grandchildren.

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