Shostakovich: Hypothetically Murdered Orchestral Suite (reconstructed McBurney); Four Romances on Poems by Pushkin (orch. McBurney); Five Fragments, Op. 42; Suite No. 1 for Jazz Band

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: United
WORKS: Hypothetically Murdered Orchestral Suite (reconstructed McBurney); Four Romances on Poems by Pushkin (orch. McBurney); Five Fragments, Op. 42; Suite No. 1 for Jazz Band
PERFORMER: Dimitri Kharitonov (bass)City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Mark Elder
CATALOGUE NO: 88001 DDD (distr. Complete Record Co)
In the autumn of 1931 the Leningrad Music Hall assembled its stars, including a performing dog, for a slapstick political show for which Shostakovich wrote the music. In the show, the hero, who is taking part in a Civil Defence exercise, is ‘theoretically killed’ by the enemy. This phrase is imaginatively improved by Gerard McBurney to Hypothetically Murdered, the title of the suite which he has reconstructed from surviving sketches and other clues. (The full score is lost.)

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The music is now racy, now mock-sentimental, and wholly entertaining. The cheeky flavouring of accordion, glissando trombone and other such elements provides a sauce, but there is meaty substance too. After this splendid first recording by Elder and the CBSO I expect to see this work widely performed.

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The little Jazz Suite No. 1, lately offered with the much longer Suite No. 2 on Riccardo Chailly’s disc of Shostakovich jazz music (Decca), is more seductively delivered in Elder’s version. Shostakovich’s Pushkin songs (‘Romance’ is just Russian for ‘song’), with the orchestration completed by McBurney, are dark-toned and inward-turning; though dated 1937, they prefigure the intense style of Shostakovich’s last years. The superbly sustained bass of Dimitri Kharitonov penetrates their essence. A splendid disc. Arthur Jacobs