Shostakovich scores a be­lated Baby­lon hit

Com­poser’s mu­sic for 1929 film is revived decades af­ter the fi­asco of its pub­lic pre­miere

BBC Music Magazine - - THE FULL SCORE -

Eighty-eight years af­ter it was writ­ten, a film score by Shostakovich has at last en­joyed its first pub­lic per­for­mance as the com­poser in­tended it. At a screen­ing at the Bar­bican at the end of March, pi­anist Sasha Grynyuk ac­com­pa­nied a screen­ing of The New Baby­lon, a silent film from 1929 that, at the time of its cre­ation, should have proved a ma­jor boost to the young Shostakovich’s ca­reer but in fact turned into a ma­jor de­ba­cle. Com­mis­sioned to write the mu­sic for Grig­ori Koz­int­sev and Leonid Trauberg’s film – which tells the story of the Paris Com­mune in 1871 – Shostkovich wrote a bril­liantly de­tailed score that, as well as closely fol­low­ing the ac­tion on screen, also con­tained witty quo­ta­tions from the Mar­seil­laise and the Can-can from Of­fen­bach’s

Soviet cen­sors, at a pri­vate screen­ing, de­manded 20 per cent of the film be cut

suf­fer in silents: Shostakovich’s ef­forts were left in tat­ters

spokes­woman: a scene from The New Baby­lon

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