Othello @ Battle of Stalingrad/Khachaturian
July 25, 2014
AUDIO CLIP VENICE NOCTURNE OTHELLO
While I don’t have actual figures I have to guess that there have been more written about works of Shakespeare than anyone else. Just this week, in addition to this release I also received another Othello work composed by Zdenek Fibich (1850-1900), a Czech who never got the recognition of Dvorak or Smetena. Khachaturian (1903-1978) might also be put into a similar situation taking the back seat to Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich.
The two works represented on this CD were previously released from a Marco Polo CD recorded in June of 1992. Othello, written in 1956 was a color film done when the standards were relaxed but still watched carefully by the Soviet government.
“Prologue and Introduction” begins with a mysterious dark opening which sets the mood for an extended violin solo that is the complete opposite of what was heard earlier. This is to be the leitmotif of Othello proud and lyrical. It is playful with interplay between it and the woodwinds. The middle section of the movement is filled brass statements urgency from the strings and an overall feeling of turmoil. The final section returns to the Othello theme which is sandwiched around statements from the woodwinds. This is a very strong movement and one that I’ll include in a compilation playlist. Jana Valaskova, soprano, is featured in “Desdemona’s Arioso,” a cue of mostly upbeat material. Other tracks of interest are “Venice,” a nocturne, featuring an exquisite oboe solo enhanced by soft strings. I’ve include this selection as an audio clip for you to listen to. Please remember that the clips are much lower in quality than what you’ll hear on the CD.In my book this is another winner. “Finale,” features the Slovak Philharmonic Chorus in a very unhollywood conclusion to the film. There is a brief return to the violin motif of Othello.
Written seven years earlier in 1949 Battle of Stalingrad has the sound of what you would expect to hear at least in my opinion. If someone played this work for me and later told me it was Shostakovich I would have believed. It took a few listens before I was able to pick up on the Khachaturian sound which can be similar to Shostakovich but really completely different.
“A City on the Volga-The Invasion” is the first of this five part suite. It appropriately begins with a very Russian sounding hymnal march that sets the tone of what we’re going to hear for the duration of the 29 minutes. The second part features references to the hymn O’Tannebaum German Xmas theme that features strong staccato percussion with trumpets. A wonderful introduction.
“Stalingrad in Flames” depicts the anguish and depression of the war. This track offers nothing in the way of hope.
“The Enemy is Doomed,” the longest of the tracks is another track with heavy melancholy overtones. Again there seems to be no sign of hope.
“To Victory- There is a Cliff on the Volga” offers a triumphant victory march with the brass leading the way with their bright upbeat sound. The overall sound is very similar to the first track although each has their own unique themes.
This CD will be a welcome addition to your collection if you missed it the first time around and you’re a collector of the Russian soundtrack material. While the films are nothing more than a glorification of Stalin and quite boring the soundtracks are interesting. Recommended
Battle of Stalingrad (Suite 1949)
- A City on the Volga-The Invasion (5:18)
- Stalingrad in Flames (4:01)
- The Enemy is Doomed (7:34)
- For Our Motherland: To the Attack! – Eternal Glory to the Heroes (6:35)
- To Victory- There is a Cliff on the Volga (6:11)
Othello (Suite 1956)
- Prologue and Introduction (8:44)
- Desdemona’s Arioso (3:14)
- Vineyards (3:45)
- Venice (Nocturne) (2:39)
- Nocturnal Murder (Roderigo’s Death) (2:33)
- Othello’s Despair (2:03)
- A Fit of Jealousy (2:06)
- Othello’s Despair (2:03)
- The Striking of Desdemona (The Slap) (0:55)
- Othello’s Farewell From the Camp (2:01)
- Finale (3:39)
Total Time is 63:56