- New Babylon (The Assault on Heaven), film score for live performance with silent film, Op. 18
- A Year is Like a Lifetime, suite from the film score, Op. 120a (assembled by Atovmyan)
Hänssler Classics' Dmitry Shostakovich: The New Babylon is the first complete recording of Shostakovich's earliest film score and prepared from Sikorski's edition, a state-of-the-art transcription of the only surviving manuscript and checked against a copy annotated by the composer. Conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, having discovered the long-missing work in 1971 in the Glinka Museum in Moscow, adapted it into a seven-movement suite lasting 40 minutes, first recorded in 1975. While Rozhdestvensky's version was certainly an exciting one, a number of errant readings of the manuscript crept in -- compare the bass drum strokes in the section marked "The War" in Rozhdestvensky's edition versus the more integrated -- and more sane -- drumming in its first-movement equivalent on Frank Strobel's fine recording with the SWR Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern. That is not say that the "cleaned up" "New Babylon" robs Shostakovich's music of its immediacy and experimental verve; it is among the last works he created in his Futurist phase, a period that the composer was later compelled to dismiss publicly as a youthful indiscretion. This, along with the ballet The Golden Age and his opera "The Nose," is among Shostakovich's most aggressive and challenging scores, readily burlesquing popular tunes, featuring twisted, jagged melodic lines, and long passages of couched in exploratory harmonic combinations. Strobel's version is more than twice as long as Rozhdestvensky's and has had the benefit of being synchronized to the film that it belongs to, which has its own tortuous history; a 1983 "restoration" of "The New Babylon" was rejected as inauthentic by then-surviving director Leonid Trauberg, and for this project the one remaining original print was referenced. It is a tragic love story set against the backdrop of the Paris Commune of 1870-1871 and the last silent film made by FEKS, Trauberg and Grigori Kosintsev's Factory of the Eccentric Actor, yet another Futurist enterprise doomed by the rise of Stalin. The two-disc Hänssler set is intelligently filled out with a score from the other historical end of Shostakovich's cinematic spectrum, the 1965 suite from "A Year is Like a Lifetime," a Shostakovich work that has not been recorded before. This film was also set in Paris and dealt with Karl Marx's final layover there in 1849 on his way to England; reportedly Shostakovich detested this project, and his resultant music for it, in equal measure. While the idiom of "A Year is Like a Lifetime" is very direct and difficult to reconcile with Shostakovich's familiar style, it is still high-quality film music and will no doubt engender a lot of interest among the composer's dedicated fan base. Strobel's performances of both pieces are effectively shaped, and his handling of the small, but specialized, band intended for "The New Babylon" is particularly praiseworthy. The only drawback to Hänssler Classics' Dmitry Shostakovich: The New Babylon is SWR's recording; whereas Rozhdestvensky's Soviet-era Melodiya recording of the work was loud, garish, and drenched in Day-Glo colors, SWR's recording is clear but restrained and a little lacking in punch. This should not discourage those who are anxious to experience these rare and highly interesting Shostakovich works.