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Karl Lozier
Positive Feedback Online, August 2008

This musical score is simply chock full of beautiful melodies and appealing musical passages…There are three fine soloists performing here plus an excellent small chorus. Irina Matavea is the soprano, Anna Kiknadze the mezzo-soprano and Dmitry Voropaev tenor. The orchestra and conductor are not to be faulted; the musical enjoyment they provide here is truly outstanding…Audiophiles seem to almost drool over solid palpable drum or tympani thwacks and in some passages they might start slobbering here. Much more important and entertaining is the clear bass reproduction of other instruments often obscured in lesser recordings efforts. Make no mistake, this audio recording is outstanding, as is the entire release. Composer and performer Barbara Bucholz is noteworthy, playing the unusually scored for (remember it was 1930) early electronic instrument, the theremin…Paavo Jarvi has been the chief conductor of this fine orchestra for the past two years and probably has a great deal to do with the great orchestral performance heard here. The horns, trumpets and wind instruments all shine—very clearly here. Bravo!

Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, May 2008

The performances are good, …and all the singers’ enunciation is excellent. The sound is clear and well defined… Kudos to Fitz-Gerald: Shostakovich fanciers won’t want to be without this. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, February 2008

The story is about a just-qualified female teacher from Leningrad who is sent to a backward, superstitious community in Russian Mongolia where she faces great difficulties, alone and separated from her fiancé. The villagers insist their children tend the sheep rather than go to the school, and they leave the girl to ostensibly die in a snowdrift (but she is rescued by a Soviet airplane)…this unique project!

Randall Larson
Music From The Movies, February 2008

Naxos has released a splendid world premiere recording of Dmitry (Dmitri) Shostakovich’s complete score for the 1929–1921 sound/silent film, Odna (Alone). With 48 tracks and almost 80 minutes of music, reconstructed by conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald and performed by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony with a trio of featured vocalists, this is the latest in Naxos’ line of ”Film Music Classics.” Highly operatic in both its few sung moments and its more pervasive instrumental moments, this is a delightful score rich in early 20th Century classicism.

Odna was Shostakovich’s second full length film score, and one of his best; it’s more personable than the harsher Fall of Berlin (previously released by Naxos/Marco Polo) and other works I’ve encountered. The film describes a young teacher named Kuzmina, eager to build a life of her own, who is sent to the mountains of Mongolia to teach the children of the Altai shepherds, where she struggles against both elements and corrupt local politicians. Odna was initially designed as a silent film and only added music and a few lines of dialogue when sound came to the Russian studios late in production; as a result the music takes on a silent film’s role of supporting virtually all of the film’s activity through musical description. Some of this is pure incidental underscore (‘Kazmina Arrives as the Locals Look On,’ ‘She Meets the Village Chairman and Some of the Locals,’ etc) but most is ripe with energy, mirroring first the teacher’s enthusiasm and then her disillusionment, and capturing characters thematically with a trio of recurring motives.

The music is impeccably performed. There are a few moments sung operatically—I’m not a big fan of opera, so these moments don’t do much for me—but the orchestral score is a sheer delight. ‘Kuzmina Takes Courage’ is a cheery motif for accordion; ‘The School Class—Allegro’ is a fun discourse between piping horns and percussion (drum, cymbal, blocks); ‘The Bai Selects the children to Tend the Sheep’ sours the fun ‘School Class’ music with the harsh condescension of the local populace; a low end and warbling woodwind is identified with the Bai—the village people with whom Kuzmina stays, here and elsewhere in the score. ‘The Village Soviet Chairman Waking Up’ is a marvelous cue resonant with evil wickedness; as much a political statement as a bit of underscore; a lowly descent of wailing horns wavers languidly over an underlying march of low winds and strings until a counterpoint of higher violins funnel the cue into a severely dramatic and theatrical intonation; an appropriate depiction of the corrupt and brutal local bureaucrat. ‘Kuzmina Confronts the Village Chairman,’ which immediately follows, is an expressive dramatic cue which ends with a splay of what we have now come to recognize as Herrmannesque chords; one almost expects a Cyclops to come charging out of a nearby cave and attack the Chairman on Kuzmina’s behalf. ‘The Village Chairman Drinks Tea With His Wife’ is a delightful allegretto scherzo, featuring the same “warped” chords as the ‘Waking Up’ cue to identify the wicked chairman’s allegiances, here set in a delightfully intricate light classical setting. ‘Kuzmina Protests’ rises to a huge crescendo as the orchestra wails with all its fury in one of the score’s most dramatic moments.

Shostakovich accompanies ‘Snowstorm’ with a theremin (he was one of the first composers to write for this instrument, invented in 1919, and Odna featured the first use of a theremin in a film score), and its soprano wailing resonates ghostlike across the film’s snowscape. It is heard in just the one cue. ‘The Children Come to Comfort Kuzmina’ reprises the horns/percussion motif heard earlier in the ‘School Class’ scene, and ‘The Chairman Plans Her Funeral’ reprises his wicked, twisted theme. ‘The Local Express Themselves Violently’ is a furious and fascinating action cue, with the themes for the Chairman, Kuzmina, and the villagers interacting in an aggressive orchestral clash, while ‘The Aeroplane from Moscow Arrives to Rescue The teacher’ puts is all right again with triumphant measures an and a culminating crescendo that resolves the score with dramatic finality.

One cue includes a few moments of throat singing (aka overtone singing), used in the film to delineate the environment of the Mongolian Altai Mountains. Score notes by John Riley put the music in its historical context and illuminate the development of the music.

Richard Whitehouse
Gramophone, February 2008

Although long known through various selections, Shostakovich’s second film score Odna (“Alone”) is only now available complete. This 1931 Kozintsev/Trauberg collaboration—in which a young teacher finds herself transferred to the remote Altai region, incurs the wrath of the local peasantry and is left to die in a snowstorm, only to be rescued by a Soviet plane—emerged on the cusp of “silent” and “sound” cinema. Lack of suitable venues meant the film received few showings with its soundtrack and, while it received considerable acclaim abroad, it was allowed to fall into obscurity unril the 1960s.

Even now, the film—reconstructed after the master was destroyed in wartime Leningrad—is missing its “snowstorm” reel. Luckily, the score has now been reclaimed in full—due in no small part to Mark Fitz-Gerald, who has assembled it from numerous sources and presented it in live showings around Western Europe. The result is one of Shostakovich’s most innovarite scores: the ebullience of his early theatre music being combined with music anticipating the emotional intensity of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, alongside some of his most startling experiment—with cues for overtone singing and a contribution from the theremin (an early electronic instrument).

The brief vocal items are attractively done, and Fitz-Gerald secures playing of exceprional vitality from the Frankfurt orchestra. Vividly recorded, with a detailed note from Russian film expert John Riley, Odna is engrossing and pleasurable in purely musical terms. Those wishing to investigate Shostakovich’s film music should start here.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, February 2008

Shostakovich scored dozens of films, starting in the silent era with a long, almost symphonic, accompaniment to Kozintsev and Trauberg’s New Babylon (1929). At the last minute the censors imposed heavy cuts on the film and there wasn’t time even to begin to try and make Shostakovich’s music fit what was left of the film. For his next film Odna (Alone) Shostakovich decided to make things easier for everybody and wrote music in easily assimilated portions ranging in duration from about 30 seconds to four and a half minutes. There are 48 cues on this CD—the complete score for the film.

Odna was planned as the first Soviet sound film but, due to the bulkiness of the sound recording equipment, it was shot, on location, as a silent with the soundtrack being added later at the Leningrad studios. As the soundtrack was poor, title cards were used as well as sound—hence the description of a sound/silent film. The plot is simplicity itself. Elena, a young teacher looks forward to a life with her husband-to-be in Leningrad but she is sent to the Altai, on the Mongolian border. She tries to teach the children, and they enjoy their lessons, but the parents need them to tend the sheep. Elena nearly dies in a snowdrift but is rescued “thanks to the Soviet State”, as a title card tells us. Finally, Elena leaves the Altai and returns to Leningrad, but we have no idea if her presence in the village has made any difference to the lives if the people she leaves behind. Shostakovich is much more positive in his closing music, giving a quite optimistic view.

The music covers a wide variety of styles and moods. There’s a lot of the kind of music we know from The Age of Gold, and the opera The Nose, circus music similar to that which appears in the first movement of the 4th Symphony, highly serious (but with a slight thumbing of the nose) for the village Soviet chairman waking up (track 29), but there’s also high drama, especially in the scenes where Elena nearly freezes to death, a very evocative use of the Theremin here.

The booklet tells us that this is one of Shostakovich’s best scores. It’s certainly one of his most varied and it’s easy to follow the slender plot. There’s also some delightful orchestrations—I particularly loved the duet for bassoons and harp and the duet for oboe and wood blocks!—ranging from full orchestra to chamber music combinations. You can hear the orchestral sound Shostakovich became famous for, sometimes in embryo, in almost every track.

The restoration of the score was obviously a labour of love. Much time and effort has obviously gone into the making of this disk. The performance is excellent: the orchestra is on top form and the soloists are, mercifully, lacking the kind of wide vibrato we used to get from Soviet singers.

All in all, an exciting release which finally does justice to a score we have only really known, in tantalisingly incomplete form, through Rozhdestvensky’s short Suite—which he recorded in the early 1980s, and which is now available in a 14 disk set from BMG/Melodia, or as a 2 disk set of Manuscripts from Different Years 74321 59058 2—a version of the Suite by Dmitri Smirnov for wind ensemble (Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Meladina Record MRCD0021) and a Russian Disc issue of 1995 (RD CD 10 007) which included 29 cues from the score.

This is the real thing and it was worth the wait. Recording and notes are superb.

This Naxos series of Film Music Classics simply goes from strength to strength.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2008

With Dmitry Shostakovich’s symphonies often celebrate the achievements of Communism, and he was a dutiful servant of the regime with many of his film scores helping to sell their propaganda. One of his earliest—dating from 1931—was for Odna (Alone), the story of the newly qualified teacher who was living in Leningrad and looking forward to working there, when she found herself allocated to a job in the backwater of Altai on the Mongolian border. There she discovers a people that are less than responsive to education, the idle party official failing to get the Communist ideals to the inhabitants. The film ends with the young woman having fulfilled her ambitions to make it a better place to enjoy all the benefits of the regime before leaving to return to Leningrad. Though by the 1930’s the western world was long used to films with synchronised sound, the Soviet Union still had to perfect the technique, and Shostakovich was also in charge of that aspect. As it was filmed as a silent film—many cinemas not yet having sound equipment—words and music had to be added later. Shostakovich had composed a score that was extensive and employed a vast orchestra, solo singers and chorus. There was to be eight brass band instruments, the very early use of the theremin—a strange electronic instrument—and a barrel-organ. Shostakovich recalled that the orchestra and conductor were fine, but the recording quality could not handle the size of the orchestra. The music had a mixed reception, a minority—with some justification—finding it unduly repetitive, but otherwise it was well received by the critics. Often lightweight, it’s descriptive mode obviously relied on the visuals. The use of words in the soundtrack was apparently limited, the music helping to propel the action, particularly in the vocal tracks. Sadly the original film was largely destroyed in the Second World War, and it was left to the conductor of this disc, Mark Fitz-Gerald, to recreate Shostakovich’s score from several sources including the composer’s unedited score. On this disc the work plays for little short of 80 minutes and includes some music unused in the film, this new edition first performed in 2003. This release marks the recorded premiere of that edition. The Frankfurt Radio Symphony play with obvious commitment, the solo singers, Irina Mataeva, Anna Kiknadze and Dmitry Voropaev are good and the choir fulsome in their participation. Obviously a ‘must have’ for all film buffs, and worthwhile novelty to those with an interest in the composer.

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