This week, we released our fifth volume of the Shostakovich Film Series. Many classical music fans have yet to discover the colorful and wide-ranging music that Dmitri Shostakovich wrote for films. Shostakovich loved the movies, and started out playing the piano for silent films when he was a teenage music student. He composed his first film score when he was 23, for the 1929 film The New Babylon. In all, he created the music for 36 films, the last being King Lear in 1971.
One of the distinguishing factors in Shostakovich’s film music that truly sets him apart from his contemporaries is his genuine love of the cinema, which gave him a particular sensitivity to the medium. And it was his sensitivity to the medium that led him to write his film music in a highly accessible idiom. From the outset, his film music had enormous mass appeal for audiences.
Shostakovich’s dramatic sensibilities, especially his ability to juxtapose frivolity with despair in his music, translated particularly well to the cinema. This dramatic sensibility helped to bring alive what was happening onscreen. His ability to take what some would consider “trivial” music, and grant it a legitimate role, was particularly suited to animated films. Unfortunately, his one feature-length “cartoon comic-opera,” The Tale of the Priest and His Worker Balda (on Volume 5), was never completed, and the footage was eventually lost. However, as you will hear on the fifth volume of this Series, Shostakovich puts so much life into the music that it is easy to picture what would have been happening in the film.
Our first Delos introduction to the delights of Shostakovich’s film music was Constantine Orbelian’s “Shostakovich Waltzes” recording, one of our first with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra (DE 3257), featuringWaltzes from a number of Shostakovich film scores. And it is Constantine who produced (originally for the Russian Disc label) this fascinating Shostakovich Film Series.