Shostakovich, Hamlet film score
(suite) Op 116 Herrmann, NPO, Decca
Phase 4 LP.
This recording was
something of a surprise. I thought I
knew the Hamlet music, but the
music I know is the film score music
from 1964 and not the 1932 stage music,
which was written to accompany a heavily
satirical revisionist production in
which Hamlet was an obese and evil plotter
and Ophelia was an intoxicated vamp.
Needless to say this music does not
express emotions one would normally
associate with Hamlet but is
strong on sharply astringent little
dances. It is from hearing this early
music by Shostakovich that we can surmise
what kind of composer he would have
turned out to be had the infamous 1936
denunciation of Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk
not taken place.
With King Lear
we get onto more familiar ground. In
fact very familiar: the first fool’s
song "He Who decides..." is
sung to a tune well known in the US
as the chorus from "Jingle Bells."
However, the original version of this
song, written and copyrighted by James
Pierpont in West Medford, Massachusetts,
in 1857, is different from the version
now generally sung, which more like
this tune. Perhaps after all it is a
traditional Russian song that somehow
ended up in the US as a pop tune. Stranger
things have happened; look at the Canadian
The sound on this disk
is exceptionally clear; not only was
it well mastered at 20 bit resolution
but the down-sampling and noise shaping
were accomplished with exceptional success.
The many cymbal clashes will challenge
and demonstrate your tweeters. In both
sets of selections the soloists with
very English sounding names feature
in long stretches of astonishing clear
and liquid Russian; see if your accent
can match this!