Shostakovich: The Tale Of The Priest And His Worker Balda, Lady Macbeth Suite
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Thomas Sanderling, conducting
Review by: Robert Zierolf
Imagine Shostakovich having fun.
Hard to do, but you can with his music for the unfinished cartoon titled The
Tale of the Priest and his Worker, Balda. Based on a folk story by Pushkin,
the film was never finished and the score just recently completed and recorded
on this disc. Cartoons were popular in the Soviet Union, as were other types
of films, and Gubaidulina, Prokofiev, Schittke, and Shostakovich wrote some
great music for them. Balda is a farce, and the all-Russian chorus,
soloists, and orchestra sound like they too are having fun with Shostakovich's
typically sardonic work.
Three interludes from Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District will be
familiar to those who know the opera, but presented here as a suite exhibit
Shostakovich's unmistakable style with some of his nastiest music. Composed
in the early 1930s, as was Balda, Lady Macbeth was widely
performed and highly acclaimed for a couple of years until Stalin stormed out
of a performance that Pravda immediately panned it as un-Soviet, which caused
it to be withdrawn from Eastern Bloc stages only to surface decades later revised
as Katerina Izmailova. The suite of interludes likewise remained unperformed
until long after the original date of composition.
Zierolf is Professor of Music Theory and
History and Division head of Composition,
Musicology, and Theory at the College-Conservatory
of Music, University of Cincinnati. He is
also a freelance writer on classical music.