Shostakovich (The) Girlfriends

Shostakovich’s forgotten film music and first ideas for the Ninth Symphony

Author: 
Richard_Whitehouse

Shostakovich (The) Girlfriends

  • (The) Girlfriends
  • Rule, Britannia
  • Salute, Spain!
  • Symphonic Fragment

After his notable act of restoration with the complete score to the film Odna (“Alone”, 2/08), Mark Fitz-Gerald puts Shostakovich aficionados further in his debt with this disc of previously unknown or unavailable music. The story of three woman whose friendship is established in pre-1914 Russia then strengthened in the USSR of the Civil War, The Girlfriends (1935) is the most diverse of all the composer’s earlier film scores: cues for string quartet make way for those in which chamber ensembles alternate with brass fanfares, folk choruses and even the Internationale on solo theremin before a powerful orchestral apotheosis. No other such score gives as many clues to Shostakovich’s development, and to have it complete and so finely realised is as pleasurable as it is instructive.

The complete incidental music to the propagandist play Rule, Britannia (1932) and the Spanish Civil War drama Salute to Spain (1936) help fill out the composer’s activities in his most diverse period of creativity, while the fragment of what was to have been the Ninth Symphony is a major discovery. Shostakovich began a large-scale “victory symphony” in early 1945: what he left, fully orchestrated, suggests he had in mind a work comparable to its predecessor in emotional intensity. Perhaps it was the daunting prospect of sustaining it that led him to abandon the project forthwith. Convincingly ended here by Fitz-Gerald and incisively rendered by his Polish forces, it rounds off a disc that - vividly recorded and copiously annotated - should be in every Shostakovich collection.

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