BBC SO/Fitz-Gerald, Barbican, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

At last, a nugget of pure gold to silence critics of programming by anniversaries. Shostakovich wrote scores to more than 30 films during the transition from silent to talkies. His first score was New Babylon (1929); his second, Odna (1929-31). The films used the same directors - Leonid Trauberg and Grigori Kozintsev. But this was the first UK screening of Odna.

Odna (Alone) was the directors' (and Shostakovich's) first film after Stalin's declaration of the first five-year plan. The film was supposed to embrace the positive aspects of Communism: teaching, collectivism and modern technology.

A "modern" urban woman is dispatched - initially against her will (for loss of a fiancé) - to Siberia to teach sheep-settlement children contemporary ways. She goes rather than suffer the indignity of being labelled a coward but soon realises that the old ways are better than the new, the new quickly corrupting the old.

This film was distributed widely before the authorities realised that it was a potent criticism of the new system. It was shelved rather than banned and for years lay in the archive of Lenfilm. During the siege of Leningrad Lenfilm was burnt, but six of the seven reels survived and so did Shostakovich's score. The soundtrack, however, was virtually destroyed.

Painstakingly, the film historian Theodore van Houten and conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald reconstructed the music and film, leaving the climax without picture (reel six), but the end complete.

Odna turns out to be a truly remarkable film, with an equally remarkable score. It requires a huge orchestra including theremin. Shostakovich scarcely uses the full force, preferring to pare down instead to the tiniest of numbers.

Cod-military music, toy-town music for children, tender utterances against bleak snowscapes allied to images of primitive peoples wedded to their sheep, makes this black and white film one of the most moving I can remember.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra with Irina Mataeva (soprano), Anna Kiknadze (mezzo), Dmitri Voropaev (tenor), Mark van Tongeren (throat singer) and the Apollo Voices under Mark Fitz-Gerald produced a revelation.

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