Dmitri Shostakovich’s music seems to be in the process of eclipsing that of all other 20th century composers, again proving Verdi’s dictum that the only critic that counted, in the long run, was the audience. The Russian composer was a prolific composer of film music. His most famous piece from that ouvre is the Romance from The Gadfly. In the West the movie’s music is primarily known from Levon Atovmian’s suite (Op 97a) which was prepared at the instigation of the composer.
Naxos has just released a recording of the complete score as reconstructed by conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald who leads the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz. The disc also includes fragments from the 1932 film The Counterplan. The observations below are based on the booklet that accompanies the disc or digital download. It is appended below.
The score for The Gadfly was the only music Shostakovich produced in 1955. Khachaturian was originally engaged, but he withdrew because of illness. Shostakovich was then asked to do the job and did so only for the money which was in short supply at the time. The film is based on Ethel Voynich’s romantic tale of the Risorgimento – the 19th-century Italian struggle against Austrian rule leading to unification of the whole peninsula. The soundtrack consists of twenty-nine sections of music – often with subtle cuts, as well as being obscured by dialogue and sound effects. Every cut is shorter than three minutes.
The recording will interest anyone who is fond of Shostakovich’s music, though it does not rank among the composer’s many masterpieces. Here is the original music for the famous Romance (Youth in the movie) followed by the expanded version from the suite. The great tune appears twice in the film.