Shostakovich: Hamlet

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
WORKS: Hamlet
PERFORMER: Russian PO/Dmitry Yablonsky
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557446
Hamlet was one of the few later Soviet films in which Shostakovich invested heart and soul, and the hour’s worth of music represented here makes compelling listening throughout. Not that it’s quite every bar; ‘first complete recording of the published film score’, never wholly clarified, means an amalgamation of the eight-movement suite extracted by the ubiquitous Lev Atovmian with the 1987 publication of 15 out of Shostakovich’s original 34 numbers. All the contrast we need, though, is here, from the whipcrack chords – superbly served, as is so much else, by the suitably dry but vivid recording – snapping at Hamlet’s isolated theme through to the witty palace music and the acidulous vaudeville as the players act out the poisoning of the king. Ophelia’s progressive disintegration is hauntingly represented, too, with the most ominous use of the harpsichord since the Graveyard Scene in Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress. Dmitry Yablonsky’s Russian Philharmonic proves to be an army of generals – vital when there are so many exposed solos requiring a special kind of atmosphere. The only pity is that the ‘Film Music Classics’ brief prevents any additional selection from Shostakovich’s 1932 Hamlet numbers, quirky music for an extrovert staging very far from the sombre tragedy of the 1964 screen epic. David Nice