This is not the ideal disc for a first-time Shostakovich listener (a better place to start would be a recording of the Fifth Symphony or the Eighth Quartet), but any dedicated admirer of the composer will want to hear this 2009 Naxos release since it contains four world-premiere recordings. The score to the film The Girlfriends and the musical extravaganzas Rule, Britannia! and Salute to Spain could not be called top-drawer Shostakovich. The Girlfriends is interesting primarily for its quotations from the composer's string quartets and its ingenious use of the theremin, but it lacks musical interest in its long central song, "Tormented by a Lack of Freedom," for male chorus and children's chorus. Rule, Britannia! and Salute to Spain are to Shostakovich's symphonies what a political poster is to a finished oil painting -- simpler, more direct, and frequently banal -- though the latter work is distinguished by an interesting closing Funeral March.
Most importantly, this disc includes the world-premiere recording of the extant portion of a symphonic movement Shostakovich originally intended to be the opening of his Ninth Symphony. Conceived and executed in the same heroic grand manner as the Seventh and Eighth symphonies, the Symphonic Movement is totally different in tone from the lightly ironic Ninth Symphony that Shostakovich finally turned in, and anyone who knows the Ninth will be fascinated by the composer's first thoughts. All four works receive committed and powerfully effective performances from the Polish National Radio Symphony under the direction of British Shostakovich expert Mark Fitz-Gerald. The CD is well worth hearing for fans of the composer. Naxos' digital sound is clear, colorful, and very vivid.