Shostakovich: Ballet Suite No. 1; Ballet Suite No. 2; Ballet Suite No. 3; Ballet Suite No. 4 (arr. Atovmyan)

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Ballet Suite No. 1; Ballet Suite No. 2; Ballet Suite No. 3; Ballet Suite No. 4 (arr. Atovmyan)
PERFORMER: Russian PO/Dmitry Yablonsky
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557208
From the heights of their vivid narrative drawn from Shostakovich’s Hamlet film music (reviewed July), Yablonsky and the Russian Philharmonic descend to the tame playground of the four ballet suites. Assembled and much touched up by the composer’s amanuensis Lev Atovmyan, they present a bland sequence of repackaged simplicity for the fallow era between the Zhdanov denounciations of 1948 and Stalin’s death. They’ll no doubt attract easy listeners of the ‘I-never-knew-Shostakovich-could-be-so-jolly’ variety, though he was more genuinely jolly in his film and theatre music of the unbuttoned 1920s. Here even the numbers drawn from the First Jazz Suite lose their point without their quirky original instrumentation. The galops all sound so similar you want to scream, even though Yablonsky and company despatch them with decent glee. There’s a touch more sincerity in the slower movements, not least the Tchaikovskian ‘Pas de deux’ from The Limpid Stream, and the solo trumpeter does better in the ‘Sentimental Romance’ than his colleagues elsewhere. Otherwise, as the slightly laid-back sound quality suggests, this is strictly for background purposes only; if you really want a disc of the lighter Shostakovich, you’d do better to stick to Yablonsky’s earlier release of jazz suites, music from The Bolt and the justly celebrated arrangement of ‘Tea for Two’. David Nice

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