Shostakovich: The Tale of the Priest and his worker, Balda

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: The Tale of the Priest and his worker, Balda
PERFORMER: Soloists; Moscow State Chamber Choir; Russian PO/Thomas Sanderling
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6112
Shostakovich’s complete 1933 music for the unfinished cartoon The Tale of the Priest and his Worker, Balda is worthier of close attention than some of his other film scores. There’s much more to it than the six numbers extracted by Rozhdestvensky in 1979, and the present team, recorded in appropriately lurid close-up, are the best possible successors in that tradition (though ‘successor’ is perhaps the wrong word for the underrated Thomas Sanderling, who enjoyed Shostakovich’s seal of approval in the 1970s). All the familiar naughty noises and loony tunes of early Shostakovich, very selectively scored, perfectly fit Pushkin’s tale of the worker hired on the cheap who gets his own back on his slippery, penny-pinching boss. The vocal contributions, especially Sergey Balashov’s brief but highly artistic tenor solo, are vividly idiomatic.

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It’s going too far to extol the merits of the composer’s own Lady Macbeth ‘Suite’ as a world premiere recording: these are simply three interludes from the original opera, rather than the more familiar concert-hall five from the Katerina Izmaylova revision, and since all three stress the opera’s cartoonish aspects – rather more cautiously taken by Sanderling – the promised contrasts with the film-score don’t add up to much. David Nice.