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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Odna (Alone) (the complete score for the 1929/1931 sound/silent film) (reconstructed by Mark Fitz-Gerald)
Irina Mataeva (soprano); Anna Kiknadze (mezzo); Dmitry Voropaev (tenor); Mark van Tongeren (overtone singer); Barbara Buchholz (theremin)
Vokalensemble der HfMDK Frankfurt
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mark Fitz-Gerald
rec. Sendesaal der Hessier Rundfunk, Frankfurt 29 November - 1 December 2006. Part studio and part live concert recording. DDD
NAXOS 8.570316 [79:56]
Experience Classicsonline

Shostakovich scored dozens of films, starting in the silent era with a long, almost symphonic, accompaniment to Kozintsev and Trauberg’s New Babylon (1929). At the last minute the censors imposed heavy cuts on the film and there wasn’t time even to begin to try and make Shostakovich’s music fit what was left of the film. For his next film Odna (Alone) Shostakovich decided to make things easier for everybody and wrote music in easily assimilated portions ranging in duration from about 30 seconds to four and a half minutes. There are 48 cues on this CD – the complete score for the film.
Odna was planned as the first Soviet sound film but, due to the bulkiness of the sound recording equipment, it was shot, on location, as a silent with the soundtrack being added later at the Leningrad studios. As the soundtrack was poor, title cards were used as well as sound – hence the description of a sound/silent film. The plot is simplicity itself. Elena, a young teacher looks forward to a life with her husband-to-be in Leningrad but she is sent to the Altai, on the Mongolian border. She tries to teach the children, and they enjoy their lessons, but the parents need them to tend the sheep. Elena nearly dies in a snowdrift but is rescued “thanks to the Soviet State”, as a title card tells us. Finally, Elena leaves the Altai and returns to Leningrad, but we have no idea if her presence in the village has made any difference to the lives if the people she leaves behind. Shostakovich is much more positive in his closing music, giving a quite optimistic view.
The music covers a wide variety of styles and moods. There’s a lot of the kind of music we know from The Age of Gold, and the opera The Nose, circus music similar to that which appears in the first movement of the 4th Symphony, highly serious (but with a slight thumbing of the nose) for the village Soviet chairman waking up (track 29), but there’s also high drama, especially in the scenes where Elena nearly freezes to death, a very evocative use of the Theremin here.
The booklet tells us that this is one of Shostakovich’s best scores. It’s certainly one of his most varied and it’s easy to follow the slender plot. There’s also some delightful orchestrations – I particularly loved the duet for bassoons and harp and the duet for oboe and wood blocks! – ranging from full orchestra to chamber music combinations. You can hear the orchestral sound Shostakovich became famous for, sometimes in embryo, in almost every track.
The restoration of the score was obviously a labour of love. Much time and effort has obviously gone into the making of this disk. The performance is excellent: the orchestra is on top form and the soloists are, mercifully, lacking the kind of wide vibrato we used to get from Soviet singers.
All in all, an exciting release which finally does justice to a score we have only really known, in tantalisingly incomplete form, through Rozhdestvensky’s short Suite - which he recorded in the early 1980s, and which is now available in a 14 disk set from BMG/Melodia, or as a 2 disk set of Manuscripts from Different Years 74321 59058 2 - a version of the Suite by Dmitri Smirnov for wind ensemble (Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Meladina Record MRCD0021) and a Russian Disc issue of 1995 (RD CD 10 007) which included 29 cues from the score.
This is the real thing and it was worth the wait. Recording and notes are superb.
This Naxos series of Film Music Classics simply goes from strength to strength.
Bob Briggs


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