Shostakovich's film music, and before that his incidental music for the stage, has gotten a bad rap as unadventurous music he wrote when he needed to ingratiate himself with the Communist regime. For some of it, the characterization rings true, but not for all of it, and these early works -- one a set of stage incidental music and one a film score of 1935 -- are delightful. Both are world premieres, although a suite from The Bedbug, Op. 19 was performed by Gennady Rozhdestvensky and the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra many years ago. It's a biting, bumptious, satirical work straight out of the highly creative early Soviet scene that Stalin brutally stamped out. Perhaps historical-instrument specialists could organize performances of neglected plays with their original instrumental music; this one would be ideal. The score to Love and Hate, Op. 28 (1934), a broad tale of the 1919 Russian civil war, is more variegated and perhaps less successful as a stand-alone score than the Bedbug music; it consists of almost two dozen short cuts. However, it has plenty to interest the Shostakovich fan, including passages that look forward to his more Romantic, safer, middle-period idiom. The score was reconstructed by the conductor here, Mark Fitz-Gerald, who is a specialist in both Shostakovich and silent film music; there surely wasn't a better person for the job. He worked not only from piano scores but from copies of the film itself. The performances by Fitz-Gerald and the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz are fine; there is room for a recording by a crack symphony orchestra that gets more of the music's edge, but Fitz-Gerald is to be commended for bringing this and other unknown Shostakovich works to the world's attention.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|The Bedbug, Op. 19|
|Love and Hate, Op. 38|