Music by: Arno Babadjanjan (Documentary), Iisak Dunaevskij (Volga),
Jan Frenkel (New Adventures of the Untouchables), Gennady Gladkov (Ordinary
Miracle), Vitaly Geviksmann (The World War), Dmitry Kabalesky (Petersburg
Nights), Aram Khachaturian (Masquerade), Viktor Lebedev (Go Ahead
Marine Guards), Andrey Petrov (I Am Walking in Moscow & Beware
of the Car), Sergei Prokofiev (Ivan Grosny & Lieutenant Kije),
Dimitri Shostakovich (The Gadfly, Return of Maxim) Valery Zubkov (Gypsy)
Context may not be everything, but sometimes it really helps to know what you
are listening to. Russian Film Music II - I Am Walking in Moscow offers
new recordings of 19 pieces from Russian films in just over an hour playing
time. At the helm is Sergei Skripka, Russia's leading conductor of film music
and a man who owns a library of over 9000 film scores. One can assume we are
in safe hands, and so it proves to be.
Unfortunately while some of the titles and one or two of the pieces - essentially
those by Prokofiev and Shostakovich - may be familiar English speaking listeners
are unlikely to ever have seen any of the films represented. Thus a really informative
booklet would be invaluable in setting the scene, but all we get is a brief
history of film in the former Soviet Union and a little bit of general commentary
on Russian film music. The main notes even conclude with an apology that they
do not cover the individual films, composers or scores as this would take too
much space! That's never stopped the Marco Polo label or Monstrous Movie Music
from providing copious notes…
So what we get is a collection of 19 highly melodic pieces, generally either
dances or romantic main themes, sequenced in no particular order, and featuring
the work of mostly unfamiliar composers from unheard of (to English audiences)
films. Judging by the sound of the tunes selected I can only guess that in Russia
these are movie themes which require no introduction, that this is the Russian
equivalent of those Greatest Movie Themes collections which used to be so popular
in the 1970s on LP. Certainly with 19 melodies in an hour nothing outstays its
welcome, and some themes are all too brief.
For instance the title tune by Andrey Petrov is a wonderfully carefree and
optimistic lilting theme - one might even say "gay" in the
sense of the word at the time I Am Walking In Moscow was made in 1963
- offering love, romance and just a hint of sadness all in 98 seconds. The same
composer's waltz from Beware of the Car (1966) is almost as beguiling
with its lightly bittersweet melody and delicate orchestration and Parisian
The well known classical composer Aram Khachaturian is represented by two pieces
from 1944's Masquerade, a gorgeously dramatic waltz and a tender hearted
"romance", though the compilation splits these two into different
parts of the disc. There are four pieces by Shostakovich, a dance from The
Gadfly (1955) and his famous arrangement of "Tea For Two",
as well as the waltz from the suite for jazz orchestra and yet another waltz
from The Return of Maxim (1937). Prokofiev is represented by the "romance"
from Lieutenant Kije (1934) and a dance from Ivan Grosny (1944).
Given the relatively easy availability of these pieces more interest may be
found in some of the less familiar music, such as Jan Frankel's thrillingly
melodramatic Taras Bulba-like scherzo music from the New Adventures
of the Untouchables (1968). Meanwhile Viktor Lebedev's melancholy "French
Theme" from Go Ahead Marine Guards (1987) attractively echoes
the work of Francis Lai and Michael Legrand while simultaneously resembling
the Westernised sound of commercial Chinese cinema as recorded on Silva Screen's
richly tuneful Famous Classical Chinese Film Themes 1 http://www.musicweb.uk.net/film/oct99/chinese.htm.
The sensibility of that disc is even more striking is a second cue from the
same film, "Don't Look Down Your Nose". Elsewhere an orchestral
"popcorn" disco influence even creeps into "Meeting"
from 1979's Gypsy by Valery Zubkov, which with its elegant horn melody
and then fashionable harpsichord sounds like Nino Rota goes 70's dance!
Predominantly though the feeling is of much more traditional dance music, especially
the waltz, for a charmingly light hearted and tuneful anthology which offers
a rare insight into the sound of popular Russian cinema. Had there been even
more music and some good notes this would have been a really essential additional
to any collection, but as it stands is still well worth buying for its infectious
feel-good spirit. The Russian Philharmonic play with great enthusiasm and panache,
the sound is very good and rest assured, Sergei Skripka knows his film music.
Gary S. Dalkin