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Film Music Classics - Shostakovich: Hamlet / Yablonsky

Release Date: 06/15/2004 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 6110062   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Dmitry Yablonsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

R E V I E W S:

Shostakovich had provided music for staged productions of Hamlet in the 1930s and 1950s, and in 1964 created the score for Kozintsev’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s drama. The composer’s friend, Lev Atovmian, arranged an eight-movement suite, op. 116a, shortly after the film’s release, but this Naxos recording—available on CD and SACD, as well as DVD-A—represents the first complete recording of the published score. There are 23 selections and Naxos, helpfully, identifies the movements that comprise Atovmian’s suite.

Although one wouldn’t mistake this material for the composer’s most profound
Read more concert music, there’s a wealth of melodic inventiveness and harmonic interest (with occasional slight Elizabethan inflections), as well as an emotional impact that makes hearing the work, without pictures, an involving experience from beginning to end. Shostakovich fashioned music to represent several of the main characters: For Hamlet, a grim and restless theme with dotted rhythms; for the Ghost, an imposing Dies Irae-like declamation; Ophelia is associated with harpsichord and the feel of antique dances. The orchestration is very imaginative. At times, it’s quite spare, as with the bizarrely animated cue for “The Cemetery,” scored for violin, piccolo, and tambourine. Elsewhere, the orchestral dress is fully fleshed out—the frothy, Prokofievian “The Palace Ball” or the closing six-and-a-half-minute “The Duel—The Death of Hamlet—Hamlet’s Funeral,” which is potently tragic in tone. The two continuous cues portraying Ophelia’s psychological unraveling (“Ophelia’s Descent into Madness” and “Ophelia’s Insanity”) are quite effective. There is plenty of atmospheric writing, as with “Story of Horatio and the Ghost,” in which the prominent tuba evokes the beginning of the second act of Siegfried.

Yablonsky directs confidently and the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra performs very well. The several brass fanfares are impressively powerful and rhythmically unanimous. The high-resolution sound (24-bit/48 kHz) is superb, with very realistic instrumental timbres—good bite to the brass and a pleasing massed string sound. This is one of those DVD-Audio productions for which the stereo program is “embedded” in the multichannel, so there’s no on-screen option for choosing stereo vs. surround. With the multichannel version, there’s a fair amount of reverberant sound in the rear channels as the volume increases: though this was a studio recording, the listening perspective is of sitting a third to halfway back in a large hall. This can make for a somewhat “cinematic” sound, which, obviously, is perfectly appropriate. Naxos utilizes the “1” subwoofer channel for especially satisfying orchestral weight—the soft bass drum thuds in “Monologue” (What a rogue and peasant slave) are almost palpable.

Andrew Quint, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Hamlet, Op. 116 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Dmitry Yablonsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USSR 
Length: 62 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: USSR (1963 - 1964). 

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