Shostakovich: The Golden Age

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: The Golden Age
PERFORMER: Royal Stockholm PO/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9251/2 DDD
Yet another splendid revelation of the Shostakovich of which we knew (almost) nothing! Here, for the first time on record, is the full-length ballet of 1930, Zolotoy Vek, in 37 numbers of which only four were excerpted for the published suite. The accepted English title, though literally correct, is misleading: this is not the paradisal ‘Golden Age’ of mythology, but a ‘Gilded Age’ of extravagance and debauchery. The wicked capitalist forces of female seduction and crooked finance try their wiles on a visiting Soviet football team.

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You might suppose a score so full of parodied Western musical ‘depravity’ would quickly pall. On the contrary, the variety is such that it dazzles. A football whistle, accordion, flexatones and much glissando tromboning are absorbed by sheer musical impulse. A witty arrangement of ‘Tea for Two’ becomes an entr’acte. David Nice’s annotation gives helpful background, but leaves the story fuzzy. What incident prompts the 18 repetitions of the same interjection in No. 35? In the listed headings, No. 2 has somehow changed into ‘aristocrats’ instead of ‘waiters’.

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The solo baritone (brass instrument) in No. 9 oddly failsto be prominent enough but the sound quality is otherwise vivid, and the whole score is driven by Rozhdestvensky’s customary irresistible zest. Arthur Jacobs