While absolutely not appropriate for neophyte Shostakovich fans, this disc of two world-premiere recordings will be irresistible to longtime fans. The Tale of the Priest and His Servant, Balda, was written in 1933 for a never-completed cartoon film based on Pushkin's well-known children's story but was thought long lost. The Symphonic Suite was originally assembled in 1932 from orchestral interludes from his fabulously successful opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District but essentially forgotten after the opera was banned by the Party and never performed in the composer's lifetime. Both works are Shostakovich at the height of his enfant terrible period. With their vicious marches, satirical waltzes, snide songs, and coarse dances, Shostakovich's cartoon music is rude, crude, ironic, sarcastic, bitter, and side-splittingly funny. And with its relentless ostinatos, jagged melodies, dissonant harmonies, and mechanical rhythms, Shostakovich's suite of operatic interludes is nasty, brutal, bloody, and brief. Superbly played by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra and superlatively conducted by Thomas Sanderling, this disc will fill the blanks in the Shostakovich discography between the musical review Hypothetically Murdered and the incidental music to Hamlet. Although those who only know his Fifth and Tenth symphonies may be initially dismayed by the unrelieved vulgarity of this music, those who know and love his Jazz Suite No. 1 and his music for the film The Human Comedy will be thrilled by Balda and Lady Macbeth. Deutsche Grammophon's 2006 sound is very vivid and quite immediate.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|The Tale of the Priest and His Servant Balda, animated film score, Op. 36|
|Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, symphonic suite from the opera for orchestra, Op. 29a|