WORKS: Film Music: The Gadfly; Pirogov; Hamlet; King Lear; Five Days, Five Nights; Michurin; The Fall of Berlin; The Golden Mountains
PERFORMER: Karol Golebiowsky (organ); Belgian Radio SO & Chorus (RTBF)/José Serebrier
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 69070-2
Shostakovich’s numerous scores for Soviet films constitute an important and still, on the whole, under-appreciated sector of his output; this three-disc set from José Serebrier, encompassing eight of his most significant contributions to the genre spanning nearly 40 years, is a welcome testimony to this aspect of his art.
These scores highlight his adaptability, able to turn his hand to historical comedy (The Gadfly), Shakespearian tragedy, sentimental Soviet biopics of an agri-geneticist (Michurin) or an anaesthetist (Pirogov), propaganda about revolution in the factories (The Golden Mountains), and war epics glorifying Stalin (The Fall of Berlin).
Some pieces from these scores – the Gadfly Romance, the Michurin waltz – have established themselves as the lighter Shostakovich lollipops, but it is fascinating to hear the echoes of his contemporary symphonic output in many of the more dramatic sequences, often covered by dialogue and sound-effects in the cinema but heard to best advantage in concert form.
The ending of the Festive Overture is recalled at the end of The Gadfly; passages from Symphonies 10 and 13 in Hamlet and the late score for King Lear. The most remarkable track on any of these discs, however, comes from the earliest score here, The Golden Mountains (1931), which elsewhere quotes from the near-contemporary Third Symphony.
The lengthy movement called ‘Fugue’ (it’s only partly fugal) begins with a baleful organ solo and develops as a brilliant symphonic movement – sometimes anticipating aspects of the Fourth Symphony – for organ and orchestra. This is a piece worth hearing on its own, without troubling that it’s meant to depict the Baku oilfields and the Petrograd factories.