Shostakovich: Odna (Alone)

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Odna (Alone)
PERFORMER: Irina Mataeva (soprano), Anna Kiknadze (mezzo-soprano), Dmitry Voropaev (tenor), Barbara Buchholz (theremin); Vocal Ensemble HfMDK, Frankfurt; Frankfurt Radio SO/Mark Fitz-Gerald
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570316

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There has to be an objection here before we even begin: in an age where DVD is now at least as established a format as the CD, why couldn’t we have had the full vision of Kozintsev and Trauberg’s often remarkable 1929-31 film as well as the sound, much as Fitz-Gerald presented it in Holland and at London’s Barbican Centre? Film music, unless it’s aiming at something unique like Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible, is duty-bound to be mimetic, and much of this long score loses its point without the characters it’s accompanying. Nevertheless, the work is one of Shostakovich’s least compromised cinema epics, capturing the contrasts between teacher Kuzmina’s ‘wonderful life’ in Leningrad and the stark Altai-Mongolian locale to which she is so cruelly despatched. Certainly more of the music should be aired ‘alone’, as it were, than the seven startling excerpts on Sinaisky’s first Shostakovich film-music CD (Chandos). Mikhail Jurowski added much on Capriccio, but here we have – albeit very briefly – the bonus of an ethnomusicological throat singer, Mark van Tongeren, producing melody over a drone by means of overtones, and a theremenist wailing in the storm of the film’s missing reel. The vocal quality is first rate: leading soprano Irina Mataeva, jolly tenor Dmitry Voropaev and a lovely imitation of folk-lullaby from mezzo Anna Kiknadze. Orchestral solos, especially high-lying oboe and grunting contrabassoon, are superbly done, and Mark Fitz-Gerald seems like a more than competent master of ceremonies. Naxos economies mean that there’s less background than most newcomers really need, and only one still (on the cover). David Nice