ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: The Nose; The Gamblers
PERFORMER: Eduard Akimov, Valery Belykh, Nina Sasulova, Boris Tarkhov, Boris Bruzhinin, Alexander Lomonosov, Vladimir Rybasenko, Vladimir Tarkhov, Valery Belykh; Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra of the Moscow Chamber Musical Theatre; Leningrad PO/Gennady RozhdestvenskyCATALOGUE NO: MEL CD 10 01192 ADD Reissue (1975/78)
Considering that it’s generally recognized as one of Shostakovich’s most original works, perhaps the supreme achievement of the Soviet avant-garde movement of the 1920s, there have been strangely few recordings of The Nose. Rozhdestvensky’s superbly pungent version, recorded a year before the composer’s death, has been the stalwart benchmark for over 30 years through a series of reissues, of which this is the latest. It doesn’t show its age. The singers and orchestra of the Moscow Chamber Theatre, with Eduard Akimov outstanding as the hapless Kovalyov, enter fully into the work’s gleefully grotesque idioms, and despite some balance problems (the orchestra is sometimes uncomfortably close) the recording fully conveys the score’s vivid colouring. Here it’s the brilliantly idiomatic and conversational way that singers and orchestra negotiate the most complex ensembles that is so satisfying, and so powerful a confirmation of Shostakovich’s natural gift for the stage.
The coupling is the world premiere – a concert performance in Leningrad in 1978 – of the eight-scene torso which Shostakovich managed to compose and score of his projected second Gogol opera, The Gamblers, immediately after he completed the Leningrad Symphony. Rozhdestvensky edited the score
and completed the eighth scene.
At nearly 47 minutes this is hardly a fragment but an acerb slice of entirely mature but unfamiliar Shostakovich (his only work to feature the bass balalaika!), and once again there have been few rival recordings since. Both performances are magnificent, and all self-respecting Shostakovich enthusiasts should have them. Calum Macdonald