“Zoya”. Music to the Film
"Soyuzdetfilm" studios, Moscow, Scriptwriters: L. Arnshtam and B. Chirskov. Director: L. Arnshtam. Lyrics: K. Simonov.
1958, "Sovetskii Compozitor" № 519. "Song about Zoya"
Separate pieces: RNMM (Stack 32, Items 105, 295).
Music to the Film Zoya:
Collaboration Between Dmitri Shostakovich and Leo Arnshtam during the war
The Soyuzdetfilm studio released the film Zoya about the life and death of 18-year-old Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya to mark the third anniversary of the beginning of the G reat Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
By the time the film was released, the name of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was well known in the country. Kosmodemyanskaya was the first wartime female Hero of the Soviet Union, receiving this title posthumously.
On 27 November 1941, while carrying out a subversive reconnaissance assignment from the headquarters of the Western Front, the girl was captured by the Germans in the village of Petrishchevo near Moscow. She was tortured and then executed by hanging on 29 November. Before her death she gave a passionate speech, calling for a vehement struggle against the invaders.
Efforts to memorialise the heroine were soon underway—Kosmodemyanskaya’s act of heroism was commemorated in literature, sculpture, painting and music. Margarita Aliger’s poem Zoya (1942) won the Stalin Prize. Matvey Manizer did one of the first sculptures dedicated to Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, and it was erected at the Izmailovskaya metro station in Moscow in 1942.
The film by Leo Arnshtam (1905-1979), based on a script written with Boris Chirskov,10 was one of these commemorations. As in his previous works, the film director invited his close friend Dmitri Shostakovich to compose the music. They had previously worked together on The Girl Friends (1936) and The Friends (1938). Zoya was Shostakovich’s first wartime film about the Great Patriotic War.
Arnshtam highly valued Shostakovich’s participation in the film. He considered him a genius who was able to embody in art the image of the new, coming era. The director denied himself this ability, saying: “It turns out that my voice, my old man’s voice, is not as it should be. It’s like the voice of an old man who wants to sing his beloved a romance he used to sing in his youth, only he is the only one blind to the fact that his voice sounds ridiculous and too feeble.” Continuing his reasoning, Arnshtam wrote to Dovzhenko: “...unnoticed, grieving, bleeding, in terrible torment, a new voice is born. It is felt by young people, or geniuses like Shostakovich and you... Alas, there are too few of you!”
Arnshtam’s script contains detailed instructions concerning the film’s sound score. He considered music to be one of the film’s important dramaturgical and semantic elements. He prescribed the arrangement of the passages in the scenes, giving them general descriptions, such as “the music builds”, “the crashing of orchestras”, and “the chaos of songs”. When Shostakovich began writing the music for the film, he certainly took the director’s wishes into account, but instead of scattered individual
items he composed a large-scale oratorio-like score. It is about 85 minutes in length, while the film itself is only 10 minutes longer. For the first time in his film music, the composer used every available means of expression within a single movie. He took advantage of the possibilities of a large symphony orchestra and choir, juxtaposed solo, ensemble and tutti sections, and employed a variety of music genres (song, march, scherzo, chorale, hymn, etc.).
In keeping with the most widespread practice, Shostakovich composed music for episodes that had already been filmed. The precise timing made the composer’s job easier. Galina Vodyanitskaya recalled: “First we shot the film, then Shostakovich came in and was shown the film assembly in draft form. He listened, watched with a stopwatch and wrote the music metre by metre, second by second. He was so in tune with Arnshtam’s intentions that he was always on the mark.”
As Arnshtam saw it, the music performed different functions in the film. One of the main ones was to create a transition between the footage and the newsreels (for example, the transition between shots of Zoya in captivation to newsreels of the 1930s is performed to the music of No. 3 “The Era”). No. 25 “Recollection” plays an important part in the dramatic composition of the film, the music of which creates a smooth transition between the shots of the girl’s life in peacetime and newsreels of the war.
The dramatic composition of the film uses music not written by Shostakovich. Skryabin’s piano etude, Op. 8, No. 12 in D sharp minor is played in its entirety while the Komsomol members watch newsreels about the military battles in Spain (Arnshtam noted in the script: “The music enters abruptly”). Popular authors’ tunes are quoted, folk songs that have become part of everyday music-making, which was important to Arnshtam. They were supposed to create an authentic sound image of the era. The final version of the film includes several such samples. For instance, during the singing lesson, a children’s choir sings a folk song called “Near the River, Near the Bridge” accompanied by piano, and a waltz features in the scene of the New Year ball (its author is not identified). After being accepted into the Komsomol, Zoya and her friends sing a verse from the song “The March of the Merry Fellows” by Isaak Dunayevsky to lyrics by Vasili Lebedev-Kumach from the film The Merry Fellows, and during the crossover of the partisan units, a song by Dmitri Pokrass to lyrics by Mikhail Isakovsky called “The Komsomol Farewell Song” (“He was given orders to go fight in the west...”) is sung. The quotation also begins a newsreel of Lenin’s funeral: these are musical phrases from the revolutionary song You Fell Victims. The song was previously used by Shostakovich in the film The Youth of Maxim and subsequently entered his Eleventh Symphony.
The music was intended to create a general sense of the era, as well as accentuate important details in the close-ups. For example, Arnshtam noted the following in the screenplay: “...Along with the music, newspaper type appears” about awarding the Stratonauts medals posthumously. Shostakovich wrote No. 35 (the last of the items he composed) for this brief, but very significant moment, in which the harp timbre predominates (it is also used in “Song about Zoya”, which glorifies her heroic death).
After Arnshtam’s film was released, it became one of the topics of discussion about ways to develop Soviet film directing that unfolded in the professional community. The discussion also raised ethical questions about filmmaking, i.e. how to portray wartime events involving violence not only by Germans, but also by Russians, yet showing the contrast between the evil the Nazis embodied and the good personified by the Russians.
In general, the film community did not perceive Arnshtam’s new film as an important event: other films released the same year attracted its attention, such as Pyryev’s Six Hours after the War with music by Khrennikov, Mikhail Romm’s Girl No. 217 with music by Khachaturian, Sergey Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible with music by Prokofiev, etc. Arnshtam’s film was also criticised for its idealised interpretation of the heroine.
In contrast to the professional filmmaking community, the public was enthusiastic about the film. It was extremely popular. Konstantin Simonov shared his impressions in Krasnaya zvezda: “I saw officers coming out of the auditorium after seeing the film with tears in their eyes, and they were not ashamed of these tears.”
Critics, in turn, responded with laudatory reviews of the many screenings of Zoya across the country. The largest number of publications came out before 1946, when the film won the Stalin Prize First Class. In all, there are about a hundred and fifty reviews of the premiere. The press reported: “...The film appears to be one of the first works to launch a series of film biographies of the heroes of the G reat Patriotic War.”
Most of the reviews referred to the significant role of the music by Shostakovich, whose fame by that time was unprecedented. Pravda wrote: “The music of composer Dmitri Shostakovich, bold and full of drama, resonated deeply and precisely with the content of the film. The participation in the film about Zoya of such an outstanding composer is extremely encouraging...”
The film was shown in different countries. Galina Vodyanitskaya recalled: “When I arrived in Bulgaria in 1945, I was greeted by crowds of people in the streets, chanting ‘Zo-ya!’”
In the United States, where wartime interest in Soviet cinema had grown, Artkino Pictures, which distributed Soviet films, actively marketed the film for distribution. In the booklet issued for the premiere, Shostakovich’s name, well known after his performance of the Seventh Symphony, was used to draw attention to the film, and his
music for Zoya was highly praised.
In 1987, selected items from the full score were published by Muzyka Publishers in Volume 41 of Shostakovich’s Collected Works (Nos. 1-8, 12, 13, 16, 20-25, 30, 31 and 35).
The piano score of “Song about Zoya” (No. 31) with the full lyrics of both stanzas was published separately in the collection Songs (Sovetsky kompozitor Publishers, Moscow, 1958). In 1985, a version of the song for choir and piano was included in Volume 34 of the composer’s Collected Works (published by Muzyka). The arrangement was done by the author, as evidenced by the author’s manuscript that has survived. Levon Atovmyan did an orchestral suite of fragments of Shostakovich’s music, which was numbered 64a in the composer’s opus list. While working on the suite, Atovmyan relied on the manuscript of the full score, which he kept in his possession. On 27 September 1964, he gave the manuscript to the Glinka State Central Museum of Musical Culture (now the Russian National Museum of Music), where it is still kept today. A manuscript of the Suite, done by Atovmyan, can be found in the Sheet Music Library of Central Television and All-Union Radio.
The Suite has been recorded more than once: in 1978 by the orchestra and choir of the Bolshoi Theatre conducted by Maksim Shostakovich, in 1991 by the Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Radio Choir conducted by Mikhail Yurovsky, in 1995 by the Symphony Orchestra of Belarusian Radio and TV and Minsk Chamber Choir conducted by Valter Mnatsakanov, etc.
Orchestra and choir of the Bolshoi Theatre conducted by Maksim Shostakovich.
1978, Melodiya, D020135-6 and C01471-2.
Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Radio Choir conducted by Mikhail Yurovsky.
1991, Capriccio 10405.
Symphony Orchestra of Belarusian Radio and TV and Minsk Chamber Choir conducted by Valter Mnatsakanov.
1995, Russian Disk RDCD 10 002.