Shostakovich/Jazz Suites The Bolt Suite Tahiti Trot

December 13, 2011

One could argue that Shostakovich was the most versatile composer of the 20th Century as his writing included opera, ballet, film, chamber, symphonic, jazz, piano preludes, plays, and easy listening much of it under the dictatorship of Stalin. He could be extremely melodic with unforgettable melodies, atonal with dissonance, irregular rhythm patterns, and use of instruments not normally associated with symphonic orchestra such as banjo and Hawaiian guitar. This Naxos release #8.555949 is a CD that doesn’t really fit into one particular category although you will find it in the classical section.

JAZZ SUITE NO. 1 (1934) was written for a jazz commission he was asked to organize for a competition in Leningrad. Dimitri chose not to give this particular piece an opus number although I’ve seen op. 38a. It was written during a particularly busy time when he was working on the film Love and Hate (1934) and after the completion of his 1st Piano concerto (op. 35) (1933). The instruments are quite an unusual combination as it is scored for (3) saxophones, (2) trumpets, trombone, double bass, piano, violin, Hawaiian guitar, banjo, snare drum, xylophone, and misc. percussion. The music doesn’t fall into the jazz category but more of an easy listening category. Dimitri used this style of music for his film and theater music.

17… Waltz (2:28) begins with piano followed by trumpet, saxophone, and gypsy style violin. One is reminded of a silent film or a cartoon. This is quite a busy orchestration with harmony coming from all instruments.

18…Polka (1:35) starts off with trumpets, xylophone, and tenor saxophone in a comical arrangement.

19… Foxtrot (4:12) is a very danceable easy listening track that features alto saxophone, trombone, Hawaiian guitar, xylophone, and violin. Each instrument is allowed to solo while the others offer their own lines.


SUITE FOR VARIETY ORCHESTRA (post 1956) for variety orchestra in 8 movements is often misidentified as the JAZZ SUITE NO. 2 which were written for a newly formed jazz orchestra conducted by Victor Knushevitsky in 1938 and lost during World War II. A piano score of the work was discovered in 1999 and a three movement re-construction was done by Gerald McBurney and performed in 2000. Five of the movements came from previously released material: The Adventures of Korzinkina (1940), The Gadfly (1955), and The First Echelon (1956). No historical material seems available as to when, how, and why this suite came into existence. Instructions given are that the eight movements may be played in any order.

9… I March (3:07) is a lively, bright, and up-tempo march with an excellent melody, counterpoint, and harmony. Its origin is from The Adventures of Korzinkina (1940).

10… II Lyric Waltz (2:08) a saxophone starts the track of a moderate pace waltz with solos from the saxophone and accordion. This track appears to be written for this suite.

11… III Dance (3:02) (folk feast, national holiday) offers a festive piece, very Shostakovich which features some nice clarinet work. The pace is lively like Capriccio Italian and could very well have been the template that Dimitri used for this cue.

12… IV Waltz 1 (2:46) is a very Tchaikovsky sounding track with some nice saxophone work that also appears to have been written for this suite.

13… V Little Polka (1:51) another original track for this suite is frantic paced featuring some xylophone work.

14… VI Waltz No. 2 (3:12) begins with a sax solo which are joined by two others in a standard waltz. The melody is also carried by the strings and trombone. It is this waltz that Stanley Kubrick used in his film Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and the BBC in the Nero Wolfe series, two of many times this melody has been used. It originally came from the film The First Echelon (1956).

15…VII Dance (2:14) first appeared in the Bolt (1930) and is a very traditional

16… VIII Finale (1:52) from The Adventures of Korzinkina (1940) is a happy melody lively and bright with a very busy section; a perfect ending to this suite.

20… Tahiti-Trot (1928) (4:04) (Tea for Two) op. 16 was an original composition from Vincent Youman’s No No Nanette. Elizabeth Wilson in her fine book Shostakovich: A Life Remembered the following story. “It was in Malko’s house that Shostakovich met Sollertinsky and there, as a consequence of a bet, he transcribed and orchestrated in 40 minutes flat Tea for Two.” The short length of time it took him to orchestrate this shows the incredible talent of the 22 year old composer. I’ve included the track for your listening pleasure. 16 – tahiti trot

The Bolt (1929) a ballet, deals with workers being fired for drinking on the job which results in, a plot to destroy the lathe with a bolt, and the young communists saving the day. The ballet was a flop lasting only a single performance and was subsequently banned by Stalin. “…This tendency was harmful for Soviet music and was seen at its clearest and fullest in the works of Shostakovich who at the beginning of the thirties wrote several ballets (The Golden Age, The Bolt, The Limpid Stream) which distorted Soviet reality…” wrote Yakubov in Chandos liner notes. As a result Shostakovich recycled some of the material into other works. The ballet which is available complete on Chandos The work is filled with Russian influence and is full of complex harmony. It is a witty Shostakovich who wasn’t afraid of experimenting with something new and unusual, making the material quite refreshing.

1…  Overture ( introduction) (5:05) opens with snare drum and a brass fanfare leading the listener to a somewhat classical period sounding section with strings offering melody and counterpoint. The mood changes to a dark section filled with ominous chords.

2… The Bureaucrat (Polka) (2:42) offers a wonderful satirical section with piccolo and bassoon being answered by a comedic trombone. This short track tells the story of the people in charge and how they’re viewed by the workers.

3… The Dance of the Drayman (variations) (1:53) is jovial also telling a story with strings playing a Russian theme which is enhanced with a mocking sliding trombone. The melody is very heavy and stoic sounding.

4… Kozelkov’s Dance with Friends (tango) (5:21) runs the gamut from bawdry to a quick galop to very Slavic to party time. This is a great tango that I’m surprised is not played a lot more often.

5… Intermezzo (3:41) sounds very much like a track that could accompany a silent film scene. There is an air of mocking about it.

6… The Dance of the Colonial Slave Girl (The Appeaser) (3:10) begins as an adagio with a sad bassoon offering the melody and harmony coming from the strings. The clarinet follows also somewhat sad and the pace quickens with urgency from the strings. The track returns to the bassoon along with a sad note.

7… The Concilator (the appeaser) (3:10) offers a wonderful xylophone solo with help from the bassoon. It changes gears with a stoic statement from the brass offering melody and harmony. It ends as it began with the xylophone.

8… General Dance and Apotheosis (3:28) a patriotic solo from the saxophone begins this final track. The trombones are featured with the entire orchestra in this majestic piece as it ends with a loud crescendo.

Yablonsky and the Russian State Symphony Orchestra performs these works as well as I’ve ever heard. The orchestra is quite familiar with the material and their excitement comes across loud and clear. The digital recording is crystal clear with plenty of ambience.

Naxos CD# is 8.555949


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