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Film Music: The Neglected Art, July 2011

Podrugi is another welcome release of a Shostakovich film score material from a composer who mastered classical and soundtrack compositions. With several volumes being released by Naxos, Chandos, and Delos we’re finally getting a complete collection of his material. We can truly put him in the ‘A’ category in both areas. Podrugi is being offered as complete world premiere recording for the first time on CD or digital download. Prior to this release the only material available was three tracks on a Melodiya LP discontinued years ago. I’m sure this was a labor of love to Mark Fitz-Gerald and staff doing the necessary reconstruction necessary to bring this material to CD.

The story line of the film is a simple one consisting of a friendship between three girls starting at an early age and eventually they end up as nurses on the Russian front during World War I. Directed by Lev Arnshtam a director that Shostakovich had previously done work for on Alone and Golden Mountains and would go on to do four more pictures for him after this one. Shostakovich liked doing works for friends and his relationship with Lev began at an early age when they studied piano together.

The film score consists of quartet material with additional solo material from trumpet, piano, solo voices, organ, harp, timpani, and Theremin. On first listen I must admit to a feeling of the tracks being disjointed and put together in a haphazard fashion. I’ve changed my mind after seeing the film and digesting what Shostakovich had in mind. The “Introduction” is lovely upbeat material that has a subtle gaiety to it. It came from Dmitry’s first string quartet. “The Inn of the Keys to Happiness is a simple giddy theme performed on piano then repeated by the strings back to the piano and then to the strings again with trumpet fanfare adding enhancement. The trumpet fanfare followed, by a theme from the organ with powerful strokes, make for a revolution melody on “The Year 1919, Russian Civil War.” “The Forester’s Hut” for quartet and piano provides a romantic quivering violin for a quiet moment. Track 13 is a banda, an Italian flavored march style piece with the trumpets leading the way with the theme with harmony being provided by tenor tubas. “Natasha and Zoya rescued” is the first of two tracks featuring the orchestra and is an action track though subtle in nature. “Andrei’s Closing Words” is a sad tearful adagio melody that ends on an upbeat note offering hope for the future. “Internationale,” a track that seems somewhat out of place provides a theremin solo during a dangerous time for the girls.

While this is one that will require a certain amount of digesting even from fans of Shostakovich it is well worth the effort and worth investing in.

The Exhaustive Shostakovich, December 2010

Lev Arnshtam’s Girlfriends is another of Shostakovich’s early film collaborations available in its un-subtitled entirety on the Internet but I opted instead for the music without images, because I want to get to know Mark Fitz-Gerald’s disc and, with Love and Hatred and Maxim’s Youth in recent memory and still more films (the rest of the Maxim Trilogy!) looming ahead, I want to pace myself on the intriguing but also sort of tiresome act of watching a propagandistic, somewhat dated, frequently incomprehensible movie in discrete and sometimes slow-to-download chunks. Actually, between Maxim’s Youth and Girlfriends I may have picked the wrong one to watch in full, as this score—largely reconstructed from the original film soundtrack by Fitz-Gerald—is the richer and more varied one, a mix of chamber music, large orchestra work, novel solo instruments, and revolutionary song. As in The Golden Mountains, Shostakovich deploys a pipe organ, in a voluntary accompanied by brass instruments that heralds the 1919 civil war; as in Alone, Shostakovich makes a rare use of the theremin, in an unstable rendition of the Internationale, then the Soviet national anthem, that plays as the titular girlfriends (serving as nurses) and some wounded soldiers flee from the enemy by train. Whether the effect is more comical or unsettling in the film I don’t yet know, but in its pure audio form the electronic solo wavers neatly between the two:

I’ll eventually need to watch the film, too, to take in the contrast between the vintage recording of the score and Fitz-Gerald’s thoroughly contemporary, clean-lined account. Based on the past films I’ve watched there’s a lot of charm in that older, warblier sound, but my tastes in vocal music are very much a product of my times, I think, and I appreciate the lucid, filigree-free (and, certainly, well engineered) solo and ensemble singing on the Naxos album:

Our enemy did not mock you,
At your death you were surrounded
By your own people, and we,
Your friends, closed your eagle eyes.

That excerpt (text translated by Anastasia Belina) comes from the revolutionary song “Tormented by a Lack of Freedom”, one of a couple such numbers that Shostakovich incorporated into the Girlfriends score and, notably for Shostakovich theme-spotters, one he much later worked into the emotionally searing medley of his eighth quartet. The film score actually has a more direct relationship to his string quartet writing: Music from the 1938 first quartet serves as the movie’s introduction, which seems uncanny until you read in the booklet essay (by John Riley, he of the ever-helpful film handbook) that the usage dates from a 1960s restoration. There is original quartet music in the film, though, sometimes augmented by other instruments, and it presents a view of the composer’s emerging chamber music sound, as well as the expressiveness of his general middle-period style:

All in all it’s a fine forty-five minutes of music. I expect its joys would be diminished outside the context of Shostakovich’s career and the music, designed to coexist with moving images without overwhelming them, suffers on its own as most film scores do (I learned this phenomenon well enough from playing John Williams’ official Jurassic Park soundtrack CD over and over at a tender age), but it very much supports Riley’s thesis that Shostakovich’s cinematic work deserves more credit and attention than it usually gets. If nothing else, the ties between it and his string quartets—that most respected, intimate, consistently high-quality body of Shostakovich’s work—puts the lie to the idea that his film music can all be dismissed as perfunctory, politically expedient stuff. It’s a neat facet of his compositional personality to get to know, all these years after becoming so deeply attached to his music.

Richard Whitehouse
Gramophone, December 2009

Shostakovich’s film score The Girlfriends is among Naxos’ most enterprising recent releases, not least for including the tantalising torso of a very different ‘ninth symphony’. Excellent direction from Mark Fitz-Gerald—a conductor we should hear more of on disc.

Les Introuvables de Nereffid, November 2009

More rarities, this time in the form of three Shostakovich scores for screen and stage from the 1930s, plus a symphonic movement that was originally intended for his Ninth Symphony. The Girlfriends tells the happy tale of three friends who grow up in pre-revolutionary times and then become nurses in the civil war. It’s mostly scored for chamber instruments, with some songs and a bizarre deconstruction of the Internationale on solo theremin. An absolute must for Shostakovich fans. Rule, Britannia! and Salute to Spain were plays for which Shostakovich wrote incidental music; it’s your basic Soviet-issue patriotism. The unfinished symphonic movement is a dynamic piece that is more in keeping with what was expected of Shostakovich’s Ninth; again, essential for the Shostakovichian or whatever they’re called. By the way, if you’re the sort of person who watches Fox News: don’t buy this album! You may find yourself humming catchy communist songs at inappropriate moments.

Arthur Lintgen
Fanfare, November 2009

The Girlfriends dates from the mid 1930s, when Shostakovich was at the peak of his creative powers. The film concerns itself with familiar subjects (for Soviet films) such as war and the progress of socialism, but doesn’t seem to be as heavy handed as many of the propagandistic films that Shostakovich scored. The surprisingly restrained music is written for string quartet and several other instruments (frequently playing solo) that basically comprise a small chamber ensemble. There are, not unexpectedly, some interesting instrumental combinations, including a mournful largo for harp, timpani, and organ. A solo theremin player sounds as if she is drunk or spaced out on drugs as she performs a strange version of the Internationale. A small band of brass and snare drums plays on several tracks. The score concludes with a moving Adagio for somewhat larger forces, still dominated by strings. Some of the music would later appear in Shostakovich’s string quartets. Conductor and Shostakovich specialist Mark Fitz-Gerald masterfully and painstakingly reconstructed the entire score from various original sources (He did the same thing for Shostakovich’s score for Odna, also recently released by Naxos [8.570316]).

Rule, Britannia and Salute to Spain are a different story. They share what is sometimes charitably referred to as Shostakovich’s populist style, but truth be told, they are political potboilers with little intrinsic musical value, even if they are less bombastic than some of his similar scores. The choral music will likely make you squirm, even if you don’t read the text. The exception is “Lucia’s Funeral March,” which concludes Salute to Spain. The seven-minute Symphonic Movement that is thought to represent the composer’s initial thoughts on the first movement of his Ninth Symphony is hardly a rediscovered masterpiece. The music is so relentlessly loud, monochromatic, and densely orchestrated that it is easy to see why he discarded it.

The Polish National Symphony Orchestra has no problems with the music, and Fitz-Gerald’s interpretations are presumably authentic. The sound is a little dry, but has enough detail to serve the music well. At first glance, this would seem to be a release for Shostakovich completists, but the opportunity to hear a 46-minute film score for a war story written primarily for a string quartet and chamber ensemble should be appealing to anyone interested in the composer’s music.

Richard Whitehouse
Gramophone, September 2009

Shostakovich’s forgotten film music and first ideas for the Ninth Symphony

After his notable act of restoration with the complete score to the film Odna (“Alone”) [8.570316], Mark Fitz-Gerald puts Shostakovich aficionados further in his debt with this disc of previously unknown or unavailable music. The story of three woman whose friendship is established in pre-1914 Russia then strengthened in the USSR of the Civil War, The Girlfriends (1935) is the most diverse of all the composer’s earlier film scores: cues for string quartet make way for those in which chamber ensembles alternate with brass fanfares, folk choruses and even the lnternationale on solo theremin before a powerful orchestral apotheosis. No other such score gives as many clues to Shostakovich’s development, and to have it complete and so finely realised is as pleasurable as it is instructive.

The complete incidental music to the propagandist play Rule, Britannia (1932) and the Spanish Civil War drama Salute to Spain (1936) help fill out the composer’s activities in his most diverse period of creativity, while the fragment of what was to have been the Ninth Symphony is a major discovery. Shostakovich began a large-scale “victory symphony” in early 1945: what he left, fully orchestrated, suggests he had in mind a work comparable to its predecessor in emotional intensity. Perhaps it was the daunting prospect of sustaining it that led him to abandon the project forthwith. Convincingly ended here by Fitz-Gerald and incisively rendered by his Polish forces, it rounds off a disc that—vividly recorded and copiously annotated—should be in every
Shostakovich collection.

David Nice
BBC Music Magazine, September 2009

This is a significant new release…painstakingly restored by Mark Fitz-Gerald, faultlessly delivered by first-class Polish musicians in bright, clear sound and deservedly annotated by no less than five experts.

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, September 2009

This Shostakovich disc is easily one of the most unusual recordings I have ever encountered. It contains the premiere performances of four works: a film score, The Girlfriends; two scores for the stage, Rule Britannia! and Salute to Spain; and a fragmentary work originally intended to serve as the first movement of the Ninth Symphony. Intriguing stuff, you say! Indeed! But what you get is a mixture of the compelling, the curious and the routine. Mind you, Shostakovich didn’t intend this music to be performed in concert; rather, he meant it to accompany the action in a film. Upon seeing the film, I would likely declare this a pretty successful venture.

The film, The Girlfriends (1934; released in 1936), is about three girlfriends who grow up to become nurses and serve together during the Russian Civil War (1917–23). Most of the score’s 23 numbers were reconstructed by conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald by ear from the soundtrack of the film. Tracks 2–4, 8, 16, 19 and 23 were exceptions, since copies of their music survived. The music is mostly chamber-like in scoring, with the first track, for string quartet, comprised of music from the second movement of the First String Quartet. This cue was added to the film in the 1960s, when it was restored. The second track is also for string quartet and is somber in mood, like the first. Trumpet and piano are added in the next two numbers, bringing somewhat brighter colors.

There are several choral movements, featuring popular or Revolutionary songs (The Keys to Happiness; Tormented by a Lack of Freedom). The scoring here is a cappella and the mood rather bleak. There are glitzy trumpet fanfares mixed in, but the overall tenor of the music is solemn, with mostly delicate scoring. Some of the music, especially that involving piano and trumpet (tracks 3, 4, 8, 19), are reminiscent of the First Piano Concerto (1933), and some of the brighter music recalls moments from Shostakovich’s early ballets—The Golden Age, The Bolt and The Limpid Brook. Shostakovich uses the theremin in track 14, Internationale. This is the eerie instrument used in such science fiction classics as The Day the Earth Stood Still. Here it is used unaccompanied and sounds a bit dated, but also as if Shostakovich is, at times, playing around with the instrument.

All in all, this is an interesting but not great score. Rule Britannia! (1931) and Salute to Spain (1936) are also of musical interest. Both were written for plays with Communist-inspired themes, and both are fairly light works. The latter features a healthy measure of trumpet fanfares and bombast, but is still not to be dismissed.

The one truly compelling composition here is the Symphonic Movement (1945). Its scoring is pure Shostakovich, which is not always the case with the other works on this CD. But the music comes across as more of an overture than a movement of a symphony, which is probably why Shostakovich set it aside in favor of other music for his Ninth Symphony. Here the mood is epic and tense, much darker than anything in the Ninth. Clearly, Shostakovich hadn’t purged the war and its costly toll from his mind when he wrote this work. Some of the scoring recalls the Eight Symphony, especially in the writing for the oboe. Unfortunately, the work ends abruptly (at under seven minutes!), leaving you to wonder where it might have been headed: the music is building toward some grand climax, when it suddenly breaks off.

The performances are strong throughout, with conductor Fitz-Gerald drawing spirited playing from the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the other forces here. The sound is vivid, and the notes by Fitz-Gerald, John Riley, David Fanning and Peter Bromley are well-researched and enlightening. Recommended.

William Kreindler
MusicWeb International, August 2009

If one puts together all the operas, film scores, ballets and sets of incidental music that Shostakovich wrote, one would find that his “dramatic” music comprises more than a third of his entire output. Given the conditions under which he worked, such pieces would show a greater variety in quality than in the output of someone living in a non-totalitarian state. This is exactly what we find on this record: music written to serve political purposes that sometimes can’t help being good.

On this disk we have two sets of incidental music and one film score, as well as a historical curiosity. Around 1931 the composer was working for a theatrical group known as TRAM which was engaged in a production called Rule, Britannia! The plot is very similar to that of the ballet The Age of Gold. Here, a Western engineer—engineers were big in Russia at that time—joins the Communist cause against a background of the struggle between communism and fascism. The score to the original production is lost and we only have the music for four numbers, with the “Protest” movement reconstructed by Mark Fitz-Gerald. While I would not insult the music by calling it “agitprop” one definitely gets the idea that the composer was not enjoying himself while writing it. Only the aforementioned “Protest” movement, which reminds one of some of Shostakovich’s earlier film music, evinces genuine feeling.

In spite of a title that sounds like a 1930s Hollywood musical, Salute to Spain is altogether more substantial than Rule, Britannia! It was one of his first efforts to reingratiate himself with the Party after the Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk debacle of 1936. It incorporates genuine historical characters of the Spanish Civil War and follows the adventures of three Spanish sisters who perish fighting the Fascists—see the end-result of The Girlfriends. While much of the material consists of fanfares, marches and revolutionary songs (well-set), the music for the Song of Rosita is genuinely moving as is its reminiscence just before the final music, which is an equally affecting Funeral March for her sister Lucia. These sections are music of genuine quality.

The Girlfriends is an epic tale about three friends, Asya, Zoya and Natasha, who grow up under Tsarism and their later adventures as nurses in the Russian Civil War. In the first part they really are girls and Shostakovich has some effective music as familial situations yield to a great strike at the rubber plant at which the girls’ parents are employed. After the near death of Asya’s mother the girls try to earn money by singing at an inn. This produces the most interesting section, musically, of Part 1—the character Sylich’s description of the death of his son aboard the battleship Potemkin. After this affecting tale, a riot breaks out and the girls just escape the arrival of the militia. Part 2 takes place in 1919 and is heralded by an amazing fanfare for brass and organ. The girls have become nurses for the Red Army and are almost captured when the town of Pushkin falls to the Whites. They are rescued by Sylich on a train and during their flight we have the most surprising musical episode of the film: a series of bizarre variants of the Internationale played on the theremin. There are further escapes for the three, but at the end Asya is killed and the film ends with a very moving elegy. Of the twenty-three tracks almost every one is scored for a different small group of instruments from the one preceding it, although several incorporate string quartet and piano—a reminder that the composer was working on his first piano concerto at this time. But the score is not at all fragmentary and the drama is maintained.

When I received this disc the item that most interested me was the unfinished Symphonic Movement. As is well-known the authorities in Russia expected that Shostakovich would complete his war-time trilogy, started with the Seventh and Eighth symphonies, with a work that would both be a fit paean to the end of WWII and a worthy Symphony No. 9 in itself.  Several of his students had indicated that the composer started such a piece, but Shostakovich instead produced the Symphony No. 9 that we know, which while estimable, is neither a patriotic epic nor a companion to the Beethoven 9th. The Shostakovich scholar Olga Digonskaya, after years of searching, was able to locate the opening of the original Symphony No. 9. This work has some of the same dissonance found in Symphony No. 8. There is an unrelenting main theme and an interesting second subject. However, I found that the work proceeded on motor energy more than actual conviction. Perhaps the composer felt something similar: no matter how happy he might feel at the end of the conflict, it was not really his style to say so musically. Or perhaps he just wished to avoid “presumptuous”, as he put it, comparisons with the great Ninth of Beethoven. In any event, something of a disappointment.

The somewhat cavernous sound of the Grzegorz Fitelberg hall actually adds to the overall feel of the film score, lending a certain authenticity. Celia Sheen is good as always in her strange variation on the Internationale—a far cry from Midsomer Murders. Equally good is Kamil Baczewski in his excerpts from Salute to Spain—he sings this music very movingly. The orchestra does well in following their conductor through a wide variety of emotional territory, both as a complete entity and in the various subgroups used in The Girlfriends. I felt that after putting together this large score, Fitz-Gerald could have put more energy into conducting it. His reading is good, but could reveal more of the excitement that is in the music. His conducting of the other works is exceptional. In producing this disk, Fitz-gerald has shown us new sides of Shostakovich’s endeavor in three fields: symphonic, cinematic and theatrical and for this and his disc of the score to Odna, we owe him a debt of thanks.

James Leonard, June 2009

…any dedicated admirer of the composer will want to hear this 2009 Naxos release since it contains four world premiere recordings. The score to the film The Girlfriends and the musical extravaganzas Rule, Britannia! and Salute to Spain could not be called top drawer Shostakovich. The Girlfriends is interesting primarily for its quotations from the composer’s string quartets and its ingenious use of the theremin, but it lacks musical interest in its long central song, “Tormented by a Lack of Freedom,” for male chorus and children’s chorus. Rule, Britannia! and Salute to Spain are to Shostakovich’s symphonies what a political poster is to a finished oil painting—simpler, more direct and frequently banal—though the latter work is distinguished by an interesting closing Funeral March.

Most importantly, this disc includes the world premiere recording of the extant portion of a symphonic movement Shostakovich originally intended to be the opening of his Ninth Symphony. Conceived and executed in the same heroic grand manner as the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, the Symphonic Movement is totally different in tone from the lightly ironic Ninth Symphony that Shostakovich finally turned in, and anyone who knows the Ninth will be fascinated by the composer’s first thoughts. All four works receive committed and powerfully effective performances from the Polish National Radio Symphony under the direction of British Shostakovich expert Mark Fitz-Gerald. The CD is well worth hearing for fans of the composer.

Naxos’ digital sound is clear, colorful and very vivid.

ScoreNotes, June 2009

About the Soundtrack: I’ve recently had the good fortune of connecting with the folks over at Naxos Records to review their line of classic film and symphonic scores [see Naxos Film Music Classics and Naxos Film and TV Music Index]. The first release I’ve received is Dmitry Shostakovich’s score for, The Girlfriends. Also included on the CD are his works, Salute to Spain, Rule Brittania!, and his Symphonic Movement from 1945. The content on the disc is separated by individual tracks, which number up to 39 altogether, and features highly informative details in the liner notes about how the score and movements came to be. This is a rare case where the insert of the CD is nearly as entertaining (and educational) as the content on the disc!

What You Need to Know:  To grasp onto the music from Shostakovich’s, The Girlfriends, one must adjust their modern listening tendencies and be able to accept this score is from the classical music generation. This release is by no means an attempt to move in on the current field of film scores as this soundtrack dates all the way back to 1934. Much like Sergei Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, this is a listening engagement that will prove to be satisfying if you are willing to accept the terms in which it arrives—which is purely classical, technically excellent, and thematically rich. The score was expertly reconstructed from various original sources, including the soundtrack from 1934 and a number of recently discovered preludes.

The Girlfriends makes up much of the soundtrack, offering 23 tracks from the classic Russian movie, and serves as an interesting peak at the strategies behind the early techniques of film scoring. I paid a close attention to the pacing, the recurring themes and the overall structure of how this music must have sounded in the context of the movie. I then also imagined the “what if” scenario of Shostakovich (or any of the other greats) being around today to write film music and how it would have sounded. The liner notes do a far better job than I ever could at breaking down the technical makeup of the score, but on an entertainment level, Shostakovich provides an experience that is easy to get swept away in. Always known for his strong cultural themes, The Girlfriends provides many nice touches of Russian motifs, both by its quietly calibrated underscore and by the choral segments but you won’t hear any aggressive military marches or rousing, patriotic fanfare (even though the time frame of the movie takes place during the Russian Civil War). This is, by and large, more of a refined, dramatic offering from the maestro and takes its cues from the various stages in the film.

The treasure trove of material on the disc is further complimented by Rule, Britannia!, Salute to Spain, and the unfinished Symphonic Movement (1945). The Britannia segment is regal while the Salute to Spain is a bit more culturally infused (with an obvious Russian influence in the choral sections). The 6+ plus minutes of the Symphonic Movement makes for a worthwhile study and is a nice touch to add to the collection. In all, these three “bonus” segments make for a sturdy companion to The Girlfriends. I must also note that the retail price of the CD is quite affordable, thus I would recommend a physical purchase and not a download (seriously, the liner notes are worth the purchase alone).

Final Score: Let’s go old school with Mr. Dmitry Shostakovich! Take a break from the electronic aggression of today’s synth-based soundtracks with this excellent classical film music score. At the very least, it will provide an interesting window to the past when theatrical films were in their infancy and the great maestros were first getting their hands on them.

David Hurwitz, June 2009

This disc may be aimed more at the Shostakovich completist, but it’s no less wonderful for that. The Girlfriends is a major film score dating from the same time in the 1930s as the scandal surrounding Stalin’s denunciation of the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. Scored lightly, for string quartet, piano, trumpet, and larger forces only in a couple of numbers, the music is mostly lyrical, attractive, and (given the composer and the period) remarkably sensitive. Some of it had to be reconstructed from the actual film soundtrack, but conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald has done his job excellently, and he leads a sensitive and cogent performance of the 23 brief movements that comprise the complete score.

Rule, Britannia! and Salute to Spain both fall into the composer’s Socialist Realist hackwork, but I have to confess that the music is fun: brash, often militant, noisy, and unashamedly populist. The former strongly recalls the musical language of the Third Symphony, only it’s less garish and more tuneful…Fitz-Gerald’s conducting is really exciting in these two suites, and the orchestral playing is excellent as well.

Potentially the most interesting item here is the six-and-one-half-minute incomplete movement of what Shostakovich originally planned as his Ninth Symphony. Fans of the composer will recognize one of the themes as a loud version of the Tenth Symphony’s first-movement second subject (the limping waltz for clarinet). As for the rest, it’s clear why Shostakovich abandoned his initial effort: the remaining ideas (or should I say “idea”, as there’s only one) are uninteresting, the music uniformly loud and heavily scored. Still, as I said, this is a disc for connoisseurs, and you can only admire the composer’s self-discipline in scrapping this effort in favor of the delightful Ninth Symphony we all know and love. Go for it.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2009

Composed at much the same time as the notorious public condemnation of his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Shostakovich’s radical thinking was also much evident in the film score for Podrugi (The Girlfriends). The film relates the story of three girls who grew up to be nurses in the Civil War and was a piece of Communist ideology. The score is unusual in its use of chamber music cameos, the opening titles set against a backdrop of a section from his First String Quartet. The total of twenty-two tracks plays for over forty-six minutes, and apart from music that was to exist in other formats, the disc’s conductor, Mark Fitz-Gerald, has had the painstaking task of transcribing fifteen of the movements by listening to the film soundtrack. Fortunately the scoring is slender apart from two sections for band and the film’s concluding moments for orchestra. Stylistically it uses folk music and some populist tunes, though more often it is Shostakovich in that modernist mood that created Lady Macbeth, his desire to experiment leading to a movement for the theremin, a new electronic instrument of the time. This première recording will be snapped up by the composer’s admirers, Fitz-Gerald’s deep knowledge of the sound track giving the performance benchmark status. The accompanying booklet details the discovery of incidental music to two plays: Rule, Britannia!—which is nothing more significant than the name of a boat—and Salute to Spain, a propaganda piece in support of the Spanish Civil War. Most interesting is the final track, an unfinished, movement originally intended for the Ninth Symphony. Far more hard-hitting than the symphony we have come to know, it does show his initial mighty intentions. The Polish National Radio Symphony provide the many instrumental soloists, and the sound quality is of a very high standard.

Robert Matthew Walker
International Record Review, May 2009

A wonderful collection of unknown and manifestly worthwhile Shostakovich… The performances are absolutely superb throughout…clearly a great deal of care has gone into the making of this disc. The recording quality is excellent and the booklet notes [are] full of the most fascinating information…I hope there is more to come.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group