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Shostakovich reconstructed

November 11, 2019


Naxos’ Peter Bromley and conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald recently met Mrs Irina Antonovna Shostakovich and her Parisian team to present her with copies of the new Naxos release of world premiere recordings of the incidental music for The Bedbug and the soundtrack for Love and Hate (8.574100), and to plan further recordings in this ground-breaking series. The next release will comprise first recordings of the 1929 incidental music for The Shot (aka The Gunshot), Op. 24, a verse play comedy by Aleksandr Bezïmensky, author of the verses about the 1917 Revolution that Shostakovich set at the end of his Symphony No. 2 (Naxos 8.572708), and the complete incidental music for The Human Comedy (Scenes from Parisian Life), Op. 37, written in 1933–34, for a play by Pavel Sukhotin, adapted from Balzac’s Comédie Humaine.

Irina Antonovna Shostakovich, Peter Bromley, Mark Fitz-Gerald
Photo (L–R): Irina Antonovna Shostakovich, Peter Bromley, Mark Fitz-Gerald

The experimental and at times uncompromising music for The Shot, premiered on 14th December 1929 at the Theatre of Working-class Youth in Leningrad (TRAM) has probably never been performed since the 1930s. Shostakovich authority Gerard McBurney (author of the booklet notes for The Bedbug) describes it as ‘one of Shostakovich’s oddest creations. The instrumentation is weird…’. A radical departure from the norm, the actors were also expected to play most of the orchestral instruments on stage, as well as six banda instruments, also on stage.

Only six sections of full score and two piano score sections were published in the 1986 edition. A further nine sections in manuscript piano score form, with only a very few sections orchestrated by Shostakovich, were made available to Mark Fitz-Gerald by the DSCH Publications editor Victor Ekimovsky. In one section the composer adds a soprano saxophone to help the chorus maintain the pitch. Violins are the only strings used in this score as well as only one of each wind instrument, excluding oboes. There are two sections for mixed choir and a caricature cabaret romance for solo male voice, Dundee’s Romance, to be sung by the play’s MC, ‘Dundi’. Fitz-Gerald’s new performing edition, including his orchestration of the 11 movements in piano score, will be issued by DSCH Publishers.


Scored for a medium sized orchestra, the incidental music for The Human Comedy could hardly be more different from the avant-garde The Shot. 21 sections were published in Moscow in 1987 to which may now be added the recently discovered Finale to Act II which, together with The Broken Box, has been orchestrated by Mark Fitz-Gerald. Sukhotin’s play was a decided success at the time and ran for many performances as a nostalgic evocation of Parisian life in the 19th century. The pastiche ’Paris theme’ is skilfully adapted to give independent character to each section of the play (and is not unrelated to Shostakovich’s portrayal of Paris in the film score for New Babylon / 8.572824-25).

Parts of this melodious score, in Shostakovich’s most attractive light music vein, have been recorded in arrangements for piano, violin and for wind band, as well as rescored for a bigger orchestra in a 3-movement selection by Levon Atovmyan, included in the Ballet Suite No. 3. Ours will be the first complete recording of the original score.

Looking ahead to other projects, Mrs Shostakovich made available the manuscripts for three film scores, currently accessible only as suites assembled by Levon Atovmyan. None of these has been recorded in its original orchestration and complete.

Dmitry Shostakovich Biography & Discography

Mark Fitz-Gerald Biography & Discography


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