Walter Mnatsakanov / Minsk Symphony Orchestra

Shostakovich: The Lady and the Hooligan; Ballet Suite No. 2

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Shostakovich fans may be curious about The Lady and the Hooligan, not a work commonly listed among either the composer's ballets or his film scores. The general listener may be likewise puzzled to see a pair of ballets included in a CD that is part of a group entitled Shostakovich Film Series. All is explained in the concise booklet notes by Maya Pritsker (in English only). The Lady and the Hooligan was a film screenplay by poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky, written in 1918. The film made from it was a failure and disappeared, but Soviet artists continued to read the screenplay, and in the early '60s a group of them turned it into what is referred to here as a choreographic novel, which for all intents and purposes seems to be a ballet. The choreographer, one K. Boyarsky (no full name is given), selected excerpts from various Shostakovich works -- mostly ballets, ballet suites, and a film score -- to fit the action, which has to do with a street person befriended by a young woman. This is definitely an appendix to Shostakovich's output, but the fact is that many of the individual movements, short and snappy, are overlooked gems. The score alternates lyrical melodies with fine examples of Shostakovich's broad yet sharp humor; sample the introduction of the Hooligan (track 3), drawn on a passage from the ballet The Bolt. The notes, in a rather roundabout way, identify the source for each piece. The score is played without pause, and in several places the division into tracks comes at an illogical place. The Ballet Suite No. 2 of 1951 that rounds out the program is cut from the same cloth. Originally recorded for the small Russian Disc label in 1994, the performances and sound have held up well; the little-known Minsk Symphony Orchestra under Walter Mnatsakanov seem to be steeped in Shostakovich and catch the undertone of melancholy in his humor beautifully. A nice find for the confirmed Shostakovich fan.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
The Lady and the Hooligan, ballet in 1 act
1 6:32
2 1:47
3 2:20
4 3:32
5 2:40
6 2:59
7 5:06
8 3:38
9 2:25
10 1:44 Amazon
11 1:23 Amazon
12 7:52 Amazon
13 2:03
14 7:22
Ballet Suite No. 2
15 2:06
16 7:49
17 2:11
18 3:22
19 1:53
20 3:14
blue highlight denotes track pick