COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Russian Disc
WORKS: Alone
PERFORMER: Byelorussian Radio and TV SO/Walter Mnatsakanov

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‘No film is complete without music’ said Bernard Herrmann, the grandfather of film music and its unsurpassed exponent. But there are times when I would like to stand that statement on its head: film music is more a bane than a blessing. For this, we shouldn’t blame any particular composer but rather the conventions which now govern the craft.

Every film which aspires to tug at the heartstrings – and also send the audience out feeling jaunty – will have a soundtrack alternating between violin syrup and cabaret-band spice. If you separate the soundtracks from the films to which they theoretically adhere, you will usually find them interchangeable.  

The soundtrack for the 1931 Soviet film Alone comes from an equally unlikely source, and this symphonic-choral piece has even greater curiosity value. Most of the film scores Shostakovich composed were done out of grim economic necessity, when his major works were proscribed. But the score he composed for this hopeful celebration of collective farming is filled with youthful verve.

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This recording, with Walter Mnatsakanov conducting the Byelorussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra, brings out in full measure the circus-style oompah, the freewheeling melodiousness and the adumbrations of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.