Film Music Review
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Shostakovich: Film Music - The Golden Hills Op 30a, The Tale of the Priest and His Servant Balda Op. 36, The Adventures of Korzinkina Op. 59, The Silly Little Mouse, Op. 56

Music from the films:

Music composed by Dmitri Shostakovich.

19 Tracks (Playing Time = 62:44)

Performed by the Byelorussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra (GOLDEN HILLS), and State Cinematographic Orchestra conducted by Walter Mnatsakanov. Also featuring Alexander Nazarik, organ (GOLDEN HILLS); Irina Kolesnikova and Nina Kavetskaya, pianists (ADVENTURES OF KORZINKINA); the Belarus State Chorus (ADVENTURES OF KORZINKINA); and Yevgenia Kazantseva, Leslie Liut, Nina Tishina, Sergei Schapov, Oleg Gordinets, Mikhail Druzhina, and Antinina Ivanova (soloists in THE TALE OF THE SILLY LITTLE MOUSE). Remastering transfers by Bruce Leek from originals recorded by Pyotr Kondrashin. Recorded at the Mosfilm Studios Moscow (GOLDEN HILLS), April 1-6, 1997; and SKAT Studios, Minsk, February 7-19, 1997. Design by Mark H. Evans.

Delos 2005

Rating: ****



Delos’ first re-issue this year from Russian Disc’s Shostakovich film music recordings features music from four films. These late 1990s recordings feature conductor Walter Mnatsakanov, a noted specialist in this music. The current release features music from two animated film scores, a comic film, and music from a familiar Shostakovich score.

THE GOLDEN HILLS, Op. 30a (1931) was the second film score, but first for a sound film that Shostakovich composed. Easily one of the composer’s most engaging film scores, the work boasts large orchestral scoring alongside more intimate musical ideas and even a brass band segment. At its heart is a gorgeous waltz and a formal fugue complete for organ (played here by Alexander Nazarik) and orchestra. In Vassily Sinaisky’s 2004 Chandos release (10183, important for its recording of THE GADFLY), these two movements are combined and the whole suite takes about 14 minutes of the disc’s playing time. The selling point for the Delos disc is that we get both of these sections complete. And, as is often the case from the Russian disc sources, the music is a lot less ambient than Chandos’ sound. That makes the music have a bit more immediacy and the interpretation of the work makes this well worth adding to ones music library. This is a really exciting performance by the Byelorussian Radio & TV Symphony Orchestra with a blazing brass sound in the “Finale” that has a sound often missing from Western European Shostakovich performances. The real rarity is the music from ADVENTURES OF KORZINKINA, OP. 59 (there is only one other recording in the catalogue, on Chandos). The short suite here features rather interesting miniatures from this 1940 comedy. The ensemble here is a smaller one with a duo-piano segment (well-played by Irina Kolesnikova and Nina Kavetskaya) “The Chase,” reminiscent of the piano concerto finales. And “Restaurant Music” is a fun pastiche piece that is a real highlight of the score.

The music from the two animated films has also appeared on disc before. THE TALE OF THE PRIEST AND HIS WORKER BALDA, Op. 36 (1934) was banned by the Soviet regime’s censorship laws. This performance is the purely orchestral one. The suite holds up well this way and sounds much more like music theater work a la Weill with perhaps just a touch of circus atmosphere. It is definitely filled with some fascinatingly bizarre instrumental combinations that must be a treat to play, especially for trombonists. (For a complete performance, Shostakovich fans will want to acquire Deutsche Grammophon’s world premiere of the complete score conducted by Thomas Sanderling.) The other animated film on the disc is THE TALE OF THE SILLY LITTLE MOUSE which does include the vocal lines (text included in the accompanying booklet). The 1939 work is one of the composer’s rare forays into writing children’s music and the piece often comes across as a mini-opera—playing out to 15 minutes. There is an interesting combination of light scoring with richer harmonic language making it a bit more accessible than the sardonic sounds often associated with the composer. This was the world premiere recording of this work complete with its text, since recorded by Riccardo Chailly for Decca/London. The vocal parts are well-realized and appropriately dramatic without being over emotive.

Out of all the previous re-issues in this series, this one is perhaps the most accessible and varied program with performances that are really superb. Mnatsakanov’s interpretations are helped by some of the best sound of the series. The State Cinematographic Orchestra performs the three slighter works with great clarity and wit. The selections give a good cross section of Shostakovich’s style and even popular music-like melodies and instrumental sound combinations.


-- Steven A. Kennedy, 28 March 2011

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