Anna Karenina

LABELS: London
WORKS: Anna Karenina
PERFORMER: St Petersburg PO/Georg Solti, etc
CATALOGUE NO: 455 360-2


‘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.  

And what are we to make of Georg Solti’s soundtrack to Bernard Rose’s Anna Karenina? Advertising, pure and simple. Pull out the liner notes and look at them: only a fraction of the space is devoted to explaining the music (Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique and Swan Lake, plus some riveting Russian folksong).


But we get several pages of other available recordings by Solti and Maxim Vengerov – who makes a surprise appearance over the end credits. Oh, and we get a bonus track on the CD itself – like that extra bit on the new king-size Mars bar. We learn nothing about Radmila Ivanova, Viktor Rapotikhin, Yura Shchukin et al., whose unaccompanied vocal eruptions bring a gorgeous rawness to an otherwise over-smooth production. But they’re not part of the Decca stable, are they? This is not a soundtrack: it’s a shop window.