“Alone”. Music to the Film
Collectd works, vol. 41. Moscow, Muzyka
the Glinka All-Russia Museum Association of Musical Culture, rec. gr. 32, f. 109
Scriptwriters and Directors: G. Kozintsev and L. Trauberg.
"Soyuzkino" (Leningrad Film Factory). Released on October 10, 1931.
"'Alone' was not really a talking picture. Not because only the musical sections were recorded on the sound-track without including human speech... No, it was just a film in the old silent style. In those days people were only just beginning to experiment with methods and techniques for combining sound and images as an artistic whole."
"Shostakovich was not offended by the lack of success or rather by the partial success of his first experience of working with us. He immediately launched into work with us on sound pictures. He wrote another 90 minutes of music for our first sound film 'Alone'. When I recall that film today I think to my self that the best thing in it was Shostakovich's music. To me it sounds remarkable. I would say that his music belied an understanding of a talking picture as it should be, when it is not just a question of a babble of human voices, but the expression of the characters' feelings, when the expression of pace, rhythm and time in music underlines what kind of reality is being shown on the screen. Shostakovich was very fond of the music for the film 'Alone'."
Music to the Film
The film Alone, which is based on true events, tells the story of a young teacher from Leningrad who came to work in a remote and godforsaken Oirot village (Oirots—one of Russia’s minorities).
Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, the directors and scriptwriters of Alone, asked to invite Shostakovich to write the music for the film. The composer had already worked with them on New Babylon (1928).
On 3 August, Shostakovich’s candidacy was discussed by the studio’s art council, but one of the script department employees expressed some “misgivings”: “if Shostakovich does the same thing he did with The Nose, the entire music part will be very unpopular. Since this film is targeted at the mass viewer, we must make sure that all the criticism we heard about New Babylon is not repeated. Shostakovich should be asked to write music that everyone can understand. If he agrees, we can consider him, if he doesn’t, we need to find another composer to write the music.”
From the very beginning, the film was conceived as one with a soundtrack. Its script was written with precisely this in mind. On 31 August 1929, at the Leningrad Sovkino Studio, a special meeting was held “on making the soundtrack film Alone”, at which it was stated that it would be the “first Soviet full - screen film with soundtrack”. Taking into account the difficulties this essentially new type of work would encounter, the meeting resolved to “entrust comrades Shostakovich and Gerasimov with carrying out all the preparatory work on the soundtrack”.
On 9 March 1931, the film was formally accepted at the studio. Alone was recognized as a “significant phenomenon in cinematography as the first major soundtrack feature film”. In the protocol it was noted in particular that “Shostakovich’s music is of a very high quality. It is emotionally strong, and although complicated in its music qualities, it is nevertheless easy to understand and has a strong force of impact.”
On 10 March, a public showing of the film for the employees of the Soyuzkino Studio was held at the Splendid Palace Cinema, which Shostakovich also attended along with the other members of the film crew. The audience (795 people) were given questionnaires, and after the showing, a debate lasting for more than three hours was held. In the “Summary of the Most Frequent Comments” from 114 questionnaires, it says in particular that “the music saved the picture. The picture is a kind of illustration to Shostakovich’s music”. The report on the results of the showing and debate noted that during the showing of the film “some of the women and even the men became slightly hysterical”, and at the mention by one of the speakers of Shostakovich’s name, wild applause burst out.
On the whole, Shostakovich was very critical about his music to Alone: “I must admit that Alone was not really a soundtrack film,” he said. “And not because human speech was not recorded in it, but only pieces of music, no, simply it was a picture in the old silent style. Methods, techniques and solutions for achieving a genuinely artistic correlation of sound and image were only just being sought in those days.” He believed the lack of integrity of the score to be an important shortcoming of this work: “I always tried to find unified development, so there wouldn’t be an inn scene followed by something completely different. I always tried to seek a unified idea, which I was not particularly successful at in the film Alone; it had no unified symphonic development; it had individual numbers: No. 1—a rushing tram, No. 3—a playing barrel-organ, and so on, but I was unable to achieve unified development.”
The film has not survived in full: its Reel 6 (out of seven) has been lost.
Not all of the film music has survived either. It was not published during the composer’s lifetime, with the exception of two small fragments printed as examples in Ioffe’s book on the music of Soviet cinema.
In 1982, conductor Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, on the basis of Shostakovich’s author’s manuscripts, compiled and orchestrated a suite from the music to the film Alone in three movements and recorded it on one of the discs in the series “Dmitri Shostakovich: From the Manuscripts of Different Years” (Melodia, S10 19103-04). Mikhail Yurovsky recorded all the music that has survived from the film in 1996 (CAPRICCIO, 10 562).
The sheet music found by that time in the archives was published for the first time in Volume 41 of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Collected Works (Muzyka Publishers, Moscow, 1987).
- [Suite]. Ensemble of soloists from the USSR Symphony Orchestra, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (conductor). 1982 // Melodiya C10 19103 004, 1983.
- [Complete score]. Berlin Radio Choir, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Mikhail Yurovsky (conductor). Svetlana Katchur (soprano), Vladimir Kazatchouk (tenor). 1995 // Capriccio 10 562, 1996.
- [Complete score]. Minsk Chamber Choir, Belorussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra, Walter Mnatsakanov (conductor). 1995 // Russian Disc RDCD 10 007, 1997.
- [Complete score, including material not used in the film, reconstructed by M. Fitz-Gerald]. Vokalensemble der HfMDK (Frankfurt University of Music Choir), Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, M. Fitz-Gerald (conductor). Irina Matayeva (soprano), Anna Kiknadze (mezzo-soprano), Dmitri Voropayev (tenor), Mark van Tongeren (overtone singer), Ulrich Edelman (solo violin), Barbara Buchholz (theremin). 2006 // Naxos 8.570316, 2008.