Although long known through various selections, Shostakovich’s second film score Odna (“Alone”) is only now available complete. This 1931 Kozintsev/Trauberg collaboration – in which a young teacher finds herself transferred to the remote Altai region, incurs the wrath of the local peasantry and is left to die in a snowstorm, only to be rescued by a Soviet plane – emerged on the cusp of “silent” and “sound” cinema. Lack of suitable venues meant the film received few showings with its soundtrack and, while it received considerable acclaim abroad, it was allowed to fall into obscurity until the 1960s.
Even now, the film – reconstructed after the master was destroyed in wartime Leningrad – is missing its “snowstorm” reel. Luckily, the score has now been reclaimed in full – due in no small part to Mark Fitz‑Gerald, who has assembled it from numerous sources and presented it in live showings around Western Europe. The result is one of Shostakovich’s most innovative scores: the ebullience of his early theatre music being combined with music anticipating the emotional intensity of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, alongside some of his most startling experiments – with cues for overtone singing and a contribution from the theremin (an early electronic instrument).
The brief vocal items are attractively done, and Fitz‑Gerald secures playing of exceptional vitality from the Frankfurt orchestra. Vividly recorded, with a detailed note from Russian film expert John Riley, Odna is engrossing and pleasurable in purely musical terms. Those wishing to investigate Shostakovich’s film music should start here.