It is difficult to evaluate Dmitry Shostakovich's film music because it is next to impossible to hear it in the context of the films for which it was written. We are left only with sound recordings by which to judge their success, and who would say that would be a fair way to evaluate the film scores of Bernard Herrmann, Max Steiner, or John Williams? A further complicating factor is the dearth of multiple recordings of Shostakovich's film music. While there are several recordings of The Gadfly, most of his film scores are rarely if ever recorded, including the two here, Zoya and The Young Guard. Neither is available complete, but only in suites arranged by the composer's friend Levon Avtomyan, and Zoya has only two recordings, and The Young Guard only one. This makes this disc valuable because it contains these rare works, but disappointing because the performances are so wholly inadequate. Conductor Walter Mnatsakanov and the Byelorussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra deliver what sound like run-throughs instead of performances, with little perceptible enthusiasm. With their shoddy intonation and shaky ensemble, neither Mnatsakanov nor the Byelorussian musicians seem up to the music's minimal technical or interpretative demands. As the final nail in the coffin, the sound taken from 1995 Russian recordings is hard, harsh, and gray. Anyone interested in hearing these works may be interested in this disc, but will likely regret that there are no alternative choices.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|The Young Guard, suite from the film score, Op. 75a|
|Zoya, suite from the film score, Op. 64a|