World première recording of the complete score to Shostakovich’s New Babylon
June 23, 2011
The Basel Sinfonietta, conducted by Mark Fitz-Gerald, has recorded Shostakovich’s 1928 score for Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg’s silent black-and-white film New Babylon at the Volkshaus in the orchestra’s home town. The recording, which took place between 1st and 3rd May 2011 and was produced by Andreas Werner, was made between a run of live performances in Switzerland and Luxembourg.
This new recording is unique for a number of reasons. It is the first complete recording of all the surviving music, derived from the original ‘lost’ manuscript full score of New Babylon, and the first to use five solo string players only, as the composer would have expected. By the start of the present century the composer’s highly industrious widow, Irina Antonova, had established a centre in Paris for the study of her late husband’s life and work as well as establishing a privately funded publishing house dedicated to the publication of a new complete edition of the composer’s works in 150 volumes. One of the first full size colour facsimiles to be made available at the Paris centre was the original ‘lost’ manuscript full score of New Babylon. The availability of this score was obviously of immense importance as, at long last, we were able to check the multitude of textural queries that had accumulated over many years. Among the many surprises, and perhaps the biggest of them all, the ‘lost’ manuscript revealed that there were nearly 130 more bars after what we had known up to that time to be the final (and unresolved) chord!
Unfortunately, the original very last bars are either separated somewhere or lost. We have therefore reused 4 bars from Reel 4 and the last 3 bars of Lucia’s Funeral March from Salute to Spain, Op. 44, to bring the music to a conclusion.
Mark Fitz-Gerald and Peter Bromley
Photos from the recording session:
Basel Sinfonietta with Mark Fitz-Gerald, Andreas Werner, and Pierre-Alain Biget
left-right: Pierre-Alain Biget, Andreas Werner, Mark Fitz-Gerald, and Peter Bromley