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Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The Girlfriends
Music by Dmitry Shostakovich
Naxos 8.572138
39 Tracks 72:53 mins

This disc will I am sure be highly desirable to Shostakovich followers, presenting as it does four world premiere recordings of his music for film, stage and the concert hall. The title piece, The Girlfriends, a film score from 1934, is what we are concerned with here, the other pieces being Rule, Britannia! and Salute to Spain, both for the stage, and the Symphonic Movement (1945, unfinished). The music is performed by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Mark Fitz-Gerald, with contributions from Celia Sheen (Theremin), Kamil Barczewski (Bass) and Camerata Silesia (The Katowice City Singers' Ensemble).
The Girlfriends, a Civil War story, concerning the fate of three girls who grow up to be nurses, was directed by Lev Arnshtam, with whom Shostakovich had studied piano at Petrograd Conservatory, the pair subsequently working together as composer and sound recordist on Alone, but The Girlfriends was Arnshtam's directorial debut (they would go on to collaborate on other subsequent film projects).
The 46 minute+ score to The Girlfriends is constructed from various sources, and is actually scored for modest forces, largely featuring a string quartet, supplemented by one or two instruments, and commences with the main title music, which features the Moderato from the composer's First String Quartet, that was added when the film was restored in the 1960s, getting the score off to a very non-filmmusic-like start. "The Year 1914" continues in very much the same vein but, thankfully, trumpet and piano are also employed in the following track, even if it is desperately gloomy. The light and bouncy "The Inn of the Key to Happiness" follows and then a lively little scherzo. The first purely choral track follows, the Revolutionary song, translated as "Tormented by a Lack of Freedom. A brief fanfare for solo trumpet then gives way to the delicate innocence of "Story of Silych's Son, Ivan," followed by a different arrangement (for larger forces) of the Revolutionary song. A rousing fanfare for trumpets and church organ follows, and then a brass band performs the familiar "Internationale."
The mood changes completely to dark tragedy for "The Girls Attend to the Wounded Soldiers on the Battlefield," but only briefly, as a rousing march for military band follows. Ms Sheen then makes her contribution to the score, with the Theremin playing the "Internationale," but unfortunately it keeps wildly, and irritatingly, losing its way. More gloominess follows, with a string trio accompanying "Zoya in the Snowy Forest." However, "The Forester's Hut" offers a little hope and comfort.
A couple more brief fanfares follow, giving way to a busy little piano and trumpet-lead scherzo as "The Girls Find a Chicken." Again, changing the mood completely, two solo female voices sing a nostalgic song, translated as "Where are Those Warm Nights?"
Finally, we have a full orchestral track in the guise of the action-packed "Natasha and Zoya are Rescued," which is followed by another brief fanfare, before the orchestra plays us out with the initially sad, but eventually hopeful "Andrei's Closing Words."
For further details, visit, where you can also find information on where to buy or download the album.


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