Shostakovich: The Girlfriends

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: The Girlfriends; Salute to Spain; Rule, Britannia!; Symphonic Movement
PERFORMER: Kamil Barczewski (bass), Celia Sheen (theremin); Camerata Silesia; Polish National Radio SO/Mark Fitz-Gerald
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572138

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This is a significant new release of mostly minor Shostakovich rarities – painstakingly restored by Mark Fitz-Gerald, faultlessly delivered by first-class Polish musicians in bright, clear sound and deservedly annotated by no less than five experts.

Written in 1935, The Girlfriends lies just within the parameters of the composer’s first film-score golden age. Missing its original opening – surely the bustle music for the chicken-chase (track 19) – The Girlfriends popped up again in the 1960s with the moderato movement of the First Quartet as introduction. That choice is reduplicated here, tallying with the rest of the score’s thoughtful quartet music, so eloquently delivered by the orchestral soloists.

Though there isn’t a consistent mood here, a variety of small-scale ensembles holds the interest; the choral work is outstanding and there are memorable contributions from both trumpeter Stanislaw Dziewior and theremenist Celia Sheen, whose variation on the ‘Internationale’ may be much in demand as a novelty item.

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The theatre scores to Rule, Britannia!, with its uprising music reminiscent of The Golden Age’s last act, and Salute to Spain are more generic, but Fitz-Gerald saves the most substantial offering until last – the original, 1945 opening movement of what would have become the Symphony No. 9, gritty in its counterpoint and embattled throughout, utterly different from its superficially jaunty replacement. The shrill second subject may ring bells; it was to re-emerge as the loping clarinet solo in the corresponding movement of the Tenth Symphony. David Nice