The following for Shostakovich is comparable with that
for Mahler. Both have attracted concert activity, masses of literature,
exhaustive research and encyclopedic recording activity. There are other
similarities too not least the searing emotional intensity invoked by
the music of both composers. Each also deploys popular music and weaves
this into the tapestry. There are differences too. While Mahler was
one of the world's great conductors Shostakovich seemed to have few
pretensions in that direction.
Derek Hulme has been a steadfast supporter of the composer
since 1942 when, as he says, on spec he bought the six expensive HMV red
label 78s of the Fifth Symphony. A Shostakovich catalogue, in those
days, would have been shorter. In any event this experience drew from
Mr Hulme a lifelong mission which in part can be seen from this book.
This is the third edition. The first came out in 1982
published locally to the writer's Scottish home at Muir of Ord. The
second followed from OUP in 1991. The third is in the safe hands of
Scarecrow Press, Vermont.
The heart of the book is a catalogue ordered by opus
number after the sequence set by Grigori Shneyerson. Each entry sets
out opus number, title, background, author of text, publication background,
instrumental/vocal specification, dates, dedications, premieres (USSR,
UK, USA for the major pieces), arrangements, duration, location of mss
and sketches, discography. Film music is treated in equal detail. The
catalogue takes up 471 pages. There are 36pp of bibliography alphabetically
ordered by author name with Russian, German and English sources treated
side by side. The list of BBC broadcast talks and features runs to fifteen
pages. The entries give a synopsis of the content of the broadcast.
Worth noting is that although recording reviews for
recordings and articles are listed in the catalogue and the bibliography
these relate to UK publications (principally Gramophone). There are
no cross-references to American Record Guide or that sans pareil
among review magazines, Fanfare.
Numerous appendices treat the collections of Shostakovich
material: publishers' addresses, TV and theatre productions, fascinating
background on the history of Shostakovich recordings and its placement
in the development of recorded music in the USSR, a chronology of key
events in the composer's life, a list of abandoned projects and obscure
and dubious works, the role played by the DSCH monogram, an index of
Russian Cyrillic titles (extremely useful if you dabble in original
Russian recordings), transliteration and pronunciation details,
To help you navigate this mass of data there are 116
pages of indices of names and compositions.
As far as I can see the most recent updates take us
to somewhere in 2000. It is a pity that the book does not state the
date to which it has been finalised. This is of course a Herculean task
as the literature and recordings are constantly expanded.
Simply indispensable to the growing numbers of Shostakovich
fanatics. It is more than a decade since the last edition and plenty
has happened in that time. As Mr Hulme notes, only 12 pages of the 1991
edition survived without changes. Mr Hulme tells us that this third
edition will be his last though he hopes to be spared to issue periodical
supplementary booklets to bring things up to date from time to time.
The book is a hardback without dust wrapper. Instead
the attractive sombre cover is robustly laminated.
Shostakovich owes much to Mr Hulme for his meticulous
research and its translation into such a succinctly ordered and approachable
form. I would not be surprised if the numbers of Russian-speaking Shostakovich
supporters were many times outnumbered by their English speaking counterparts.
Mr Hulme acts as a best friend advocate for the composer who means so
much to him. If Shostakovich were here today he would, I am sure, embrace
Mr Hulme warmly for this authoritative resource.