My Favourite Scores – 1932

  • Golden Mountains (Zlatye Gory)
  • Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Capriccio / 1995 / 23:36

Released in the US in 1932, Golden Mountains was Shostakovich’s third composition for the cinema and the film follows country peasant Pyotr as poverty drives him to the city to work in a factory to earn a living. The 6-movement suite, played in the recording I have by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Michail Jurowski, was assembled by the composer shortly after it was composed in 1931.

What particularly attracts me to this suite from the score is that it immediately grabs the listener with the shrill brass fanfares and then the shrill brass re-appears at various points throughout the suite (and particularly in the final movement). These loud statements are set against the more sombre 4th and 5th movements. I remember being particularly surprised to hear the guitar solo that is heard at the beginning of the Waltz and the use of a grand organ to open the next movement (Fugue). It all emphasises to me what variety someone of Shostakovich’s calibre was doing in film music at the time (though I believe that the organ music featured in the Fugue does not appear in any current prints of the film.)

My Favourite Scores – 1925

  • The Battleship Potemkin
  • Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Unreleased

Sergei Eisenstein’s silent propaganda film The Battleship Potemkin has had several scores composed for it over the years. In fact, I’ve read that the director himself wanted a score written for the film every 20 years. Back in the mid-70s Russian officialdom took sequences from several of Dmitri Shostakovich’s symphony works (Symphonies No. 4, 5, 8, 10 and 11) and fashioned a score to accompany the film for it’s 50th anniversary release.

I watched the film just recently on YouTube and it featured Shostakovich’s score and I was immediately taken by the music I heard. At the same time giving an emotional basis to the visuals, as well as hitting the on-screen action moments, the music seems almost to have been written specifically for the film because whole swathes of Shostakovich’s music hits several key moments in the movie – just as expertly as any film composition written specifically for a film today (though the film itself may have been slightly edited to fit the chosen music). My enthusiasm for the music I heard is probably down to the excellence of Shostakovich’s writing of “classical music” in general but it fits the film so well. [Read more…]