Shostakovich: The Bolt

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: The Bolt
PERFORMER: Royal Stockholm PO, Stockholm Transport Band/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9343/4 DDD
Any Russian ballet of around 1930 that includes movements with titles like ‘Enter the Members of the Young Communist League and Pioneers’ and ‘The Naval Disarmament Conference’ speaks volumes about the prevailing political situation. Anyone who can write constantly vivid, arresting, varied music, however ironic, while hampered by such considerations has to be a composer of the first rank, especially when he turns in a two-and-a-half-hour score, in 43 sections, revolving entirely around the sabotage of a machine, its repair and the people’s wild rejoicing. Such was the unpromising scenario the librettist presented.

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Shostakovich’s difficulties with the Soviet authorities are well documented, and The Bolt was staged only once before it disappeared from the repertoire, excoriated as an example of his ‘most serious formalist errors’. Well, here it is, in full, and no self-respecting student of 20th-century Russian ballet should be without it. Making my reviewing notes, I wrote down ‘clarity of woodwind’, ‘colourful orchestration’, ‘springy rhythm’, ‘deft characterisation’ so often that, in the end, I took all these virtues for granted. Rozhdestvensky does his own vocalising (a sort of guttural declamation) and the odd bit of piano-playing, and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic is quite exemplary.