Shostakovich Classic Restored
Known primarily for his symphonies and string quartets, Dmitri Shostakovich was also a prolific film composer, although the three-dozen soundtracks he wrote haven’t received nearly as much attention as the rest of his output. Chandos has put out several CDs featuring excerpts from his various film scores, but to my knowledge, Naxos is the only label to release complete soundtracks. “Odna,” a 1930 film about a young female teacher attempting to bring a remote village in line with Soviet orthodoxy, represents the composer’s second score. It’s a large-scale work for orchestra, choir and solo vocalists, and also features some unusual instrumentation in the form of barrel organ and theremin (the first use on film of this wonderful instrument). Shostakovich was beginning to find his compositional voice at this time, and his “Odna” score reflects his growing confidence and maturity. It also demonstrates his keen grasp of dramatics and ability to underline a wide variety of emotions. Early in the film his cues project naïve optimism and sentimentality, but as the onscreen mood darkens, his score assumes a more introspective and mournful character. At all times Shostakovich’s score is inventive, passionate and committed. He effectively conveys in musical terms the contrast between the modern, forward-looking young teacher and the backward, superstitious villagers with whom she must contend. Although the original soundtrack was destroyed during World War II, it was painstakingly reconstructed by the conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald, who leads the Frankfurt Radio Symphony on this world premiere recording. Naxos is to be commended for making available this historically and artistically important chapter in the composer’s career.
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