Suite from the Ballet “The Bolt”
The Great Hall of the Leningrad Conservatoire. Orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonia. Conductor A. Gauk
Collected Works. Vol. 26. Moscow, Muzyka, 1987
The manuscript is does not exist
Suite from the Ballet
The premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich’s ballet The Bolt was held on 8 April 1931 at the Leningrad State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. The following participants made it an important event in itself: choreographer Fyodor Lopukhov, stage designers Tatyana Bruni and Georgi Korshikov (who received first prize at a special competition for their stage design of The Bolt), conductor Alexander Gauk, and dancers Leonid Leontyev, Olga Mungalova and Boris Shavrov. However, after just one performance, the ballet was removed from the repertoire, and its stage designs and costumes were destroyed. Casting aspersions on the ideological purity of the performance, the critics classified it as a mockery of industrialization and the Red Army. Six months later, the composer himself called it a “dreadful failure” caused by a “poor libretto”.
The whereabouts of the score used for the first performances of the Suite The Bolt is not known, so we can only give its approximate time of compilation and original items. Judging from Gauk’s recollections, he conducted the premiere of the Suite The Bolt in Moscow in 1932 with the Radio Committee Orchestra. Gauk and the same orchestra also performed the Leningrad premiere on 17 January 1933 in a concert of Shostakovich’s compositions in the Grand Hall of the Philharmonic. According to the concert programme, the Suite The Bolt consisted of ten items (their titles are unknown).
The frequent modifications of the choice and order of items in the Suite The Bolt during the relatively short—around three years—initial period of its existence might indirectly show that there was a high concert demand for it. This is confirmed by the notes of the musicians in the margins of the instrumental parts of the ballet The Bolt in the Archive of the Bolshoi Theatre Music Library. These notes help to fill in the gaps in the chronology and geography of the suite’s performances. In Gauk’s words, the work was frequently played “in Leningrad and then during tours”. The dates given in these notes show that in 1933-1935 the suite was performed no less than 15 times in Leningrad, Moscow, Baku, Voronezh, Odessa and Kharkov. Its popularity is also shown by the recollections of the conductor, who said that the Suite The Bolt was a “resounding success everywhere, often with several encores”.
The score of the Suite from the ballet The Bolt prepared for print at Muzgiz in the summer of 1934 never did go to press, although at the end of 1935, the music sector of KOGIZ put out a leaflet with a list of the composer’s published works that ended with the following notice: “The Suite from the ballet The Bolt has gone to press. Score and parts”. A possible explanation of this can be given based on the content of the proofreaders’ notes in the set of instrumental parts bound to it. Judging from these notes, the parts were prepared for press later than the score, in 1935-1936. The last proofreaders’ notes are dated 15 February 1936. It is obvious that publication of the score and instrumental parts of the suite was cancelled at the last moment. The notorious Pravda editorial “Ballet Falsity”, in the one of the final paragraphs of which “the composer’s unsuccessful ‘industrial’ ballet The Bolt” was also mentioned, was directly to blame for this. Following these events, the ballet The Bolt and the suite from it were long forgotten.
The revival of the Suite from the ballet The Bolt began in the 1960s. On 19 January 1964, it was performed in the Grand Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic under the baton of Igor Blazhkov. In 1966, the first recording of the suite was done under the baton of a young conductor, the composer’s son Maxim Shostakovich, with the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy Band. The version chosen for the recording, in contrast to the authorised version, is in eight rather than in six movements, with titles of the items borrowed directly from the ballet (the score of which, with Gauk’s notes, is kept at VMOMK). The text on the cover of the gramophone record also emphasised that the suite should be taken as a series of characteristic images borrowed from the Ballet The Bolt—The Bureaucrat, the Drayman, the Colonial Slave Girl, and so on. Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, who did the recordings in 1979 with the Stockholm and in 1983 with the Czechoslovak Philharmonic orchestras, preferred the same titles of the items .
Until the end of the 1980s, there were only isolated performances of the suite, since its music had not been published. The situation changed when its score was issued in 1987 in Dmitri Shostakovich’s Collected Works. The Suite from the ballet The Bolt was published in accordance with the author’s manuscript prepared by the composer in 1934 for publication at Muzgiz. Since this time, Shostakovich’s long-forgotten composition has gradually been gaining popularity, finding wonderful interpreters in conductors such as Neeme Järvi, Riccardo Chailly, Kazushi Ono, and others.
- (1931 version). Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and Zhukovsky Military Air Academy Band. Maksim Shostakovich (conductor), soloists Romuald Vladimirov (bassoon) and Leonid Redkin (xylophone). 1966 // Melodiya C01387-8.
- (Nos. 1, 2, 5, 7, and 3). Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (conductor). 1979 // Melodiya C10 13297-300, 1980.
- (Nos. 1, 2, 5, and 3). Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Gennady Rozhdestvensky (conductor). 1983 // Praga PR 250 053, 1994.
- Scottish National Orchestra. Neeme Järvi (conductor). 1988 // Chandos CHAN 8650, 1990.
- (1934 version, Nos. 1–5, 8). Philadelphia Orchestra. Riccardo Chailly (conductor). 1995 // Decca 452 597-2DH, 1996.
- (1934 version, Nos. 1–5, 8). Russian National Orchestra. Aleksandr Vedernikov (conductor). 2003 // PentaTone PTC 5186 032 (SACD)