“The Adventures of Korzinkina”. Music to the Film
"Lenfilm" studios. Scriptwriters: K. Mints and G. Yagdfeld. Director: K. Mints.
1987, Moscow. D. Shostakovich, Collected Works, Vol. 41.
The hand-written score is in the archive of the composer's family. Drafts are in the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (Stack 2048, Inv. 2, Item 46).
Music to the Film The Adventures of Korzinkina:
Experiments in Soviet Comedy Film
In 1941, the Lenfilm studio released the comedy film The Adventures of Korzinkina, directed by Klimenti Mints and based on a screenplay he wrote with Grigori Yagdfeld. Mints invited Dmitri Shostakovich to write the music for it. This film was the composer’s first work in the comedy film genre.
The exact time the film was released is unknown. The dates of 11 November 1940 and 22 July 1941, given in the literature, are incorrect. According to the recollections of contemporaries, for instance, Yanina Zhejmo, who performed the principal role, the film came out later than both of these dates. Mints reported that it appeared on the screen “during the most arduous time of the Leningrad siege”. We can assume that it was not released before 8 September 1941, most likely in October.
Klimenti Mints intended this short film, which was only about 38 minutes long, to be the first series in a cycle about the main character Yana Korzinkina. But the war prevented him from fulfilling his project.
Mints believed that the music contributed considerably to the film’s success. He recalled: “I was in no doubt that Shostakovich should write the music for this type of film, with its charm and comic, grotesque and humorous elements.”
Mints, who had just begun working in the film industry, was nervous about his upcoming meeting with the eminent Shostakovich, whose authority was by then already universally recognised. Known as a composer of “serious” music, in 1940 he was also recognised by the Soviet state for his work in film music being awarded the Order of the red Banner of Labour.
Mints recalled: “I phoned him and asked if I could come over for a business talk. I was very nervous at this first meeting. Dmitri Dmitriyevich asked me to tell him about the film, and then I gave him the director’s script to look at.” Mints showed the composer the film’s set-ups, drawn by famous caricaturist Konstantin Rotov, whose art Shostakovich appreciated. Mints recalled that, when looking at Rotov’s drawings, the composer said: “I’m glad you showed them to me before I started writing the music. These amusing drawings stimulate the musical imagination.
Shostakovich agreed to do the work, and detailed discussions of the music for the future film began. The director worked with the composer on literally every musical episode, “its rhythm and tempo, and even its potential humour and grotesque elements”, which significantly limited Shostakovich’s own creative initiative. As a result, almost all of the items in the soundtrack rely on easily recognisable genres, such as march, galop, waltz, etc. The music acts as a metro-rhythmic basis for the visuals and enhances the comical element of the scenes performed.
As Mints recalled, Shostakovich wrote a lot of music—“the entire film was full” of it, but for various reasons not all of the items were included in the final version of the film. Today, it is impossible to restore the original version of the music soundtrack. As Mints testified, the only negative of the full version of the film succumbed to the flames in besieged Leningrad.
Here is a list of the completed musical items included in the final surviving version, which, as Mints pointed out, had been significantly reduced. The sequence of items corresponds to the chronology of the film.
- Overture (Allegretto, 2/4, F major)
- Allegretto, 4/4, D minor [the item is untitled, in this edition it is called by the tempo designation]
- Music in the restaurant (Moderato non troppo, 2/4, C major)
- The Chase (Presto, 2/4, C major)
- March (Allegretto, 2/4, F major)
- Finale with choir based on a song heard by the composer from the clown Musin (Andantino, 2/4, G minor)
Many of Shostakovich’s manuscripts relating to the film were thought to have been lost in the Siege of Leningrad. In 2004, some of them were discovered in the so-called Museum Folder kept at the Glinka CSMMC. It consists of drafts, most of which Levon Atovmyan gave to the museum in 1964. The folder contains manuscripts of the following items, which were not included in the final surviving version of the film:
- Galop and Lullaby (Allegro, 2/4)
- On the Boulevard (Moderato, 3/4, waltz-like)
- Finale—the first, earlier version (Allegretto, 2/4)
- Orchestration of the “Song of the Flea” by Modest Musorgsky (two versions)
While working on the film, the composer also orchestrated Musorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov (Op. 58), which he completed in April-May 1940. Bolshoi Theatre conductor Samuil Samosud commissioned Shostakovich to do this work for a new production.
The film had a difficult time. As Mints recalled, despite the support of prominent directors, it was subjected to heavy censorship; many scenes were significantly shortened or cut. However, the administration of Lenfilm Studio did not give up and showed the film to the administration of the Leningrad Defence Committee, which decided to release this eccentric comedy on the screens of the city during the siege.
The surviving shortened version (38 minutes) was shown at the Kolos Cinema in Leningrad, as well as in hospitals and military division clubs and on the Western Front. Mints recalled that it always “met with success” and was accompanied by “laughter and guffawing”. Yanina Zhejmo told about how some pilots, who were among the first to see the film, collected a box of food for the actress, who remained in besieged Leningrad; this was considered a miracle in the starvation conditions. She recalled that the pilot who brought the gift said: “…We laughed so hard and had so much fun that we even forgot about the war. And when the film was over we decided to give you a present as a token of our gratitude. Each of us put into this box whatever we could. Don’t be hard on us if there is anything you don’t like; we did it from the bottom of our hearts.” She wanted to thank them, but was embarrassed. “A lump rose in my throat. I only said, ‘Tell the pilots...’ but I couldn’t say another word.
In 1963, during the celebration of Mints’ 55th birthday, the film The Adventures of Korzinkina was shown at the Central House of Writers in Moscow as part of the Masters of the Comedy Genre in Theatre and Film gala evening. By that time, Mints was well known as the scriptwriter of such popular films as The Tiger Tamer, Forced to be a Driver, The Honeymoon, etc. In the spring of 1963, there was a discussion at a Leningrad youth club about the development of Soviet comedy films, and Mints’ film with music by Shostakovich, shown during the event, proved to meet the demand for the genre in the time of The Thaw. Later, the film was shown at Moscow’s Illuzion Cinema, which specialised in retrospective screenings of films from the Gosfilmofond archives, as well as on Soviet television and in London in 1979.
The music to the film was first published in Volume 41 of Shostakovich’s Collected Works (Muzyka Publishers, Moscow, 1987). The publication features the items in the following sequence: “Overture”, “March”, “The Chase”, “Music in the restaurant” and “Finale”. The Allegretto, the orchestrations of the “Song of the Flea” by Musorgsky, “Galop and Lullaby”, “On the Boulevard” and the first version of the Finale were not published.
Gennadi Rozhdestvensky compiled a six-movement suite from the music to the film, Op. 59a: 1. “Overture”. 2. “March”. 3. “The Chase”. 4. “Music in the restaurant”. 5. “Intermezzo” and 6. “Finale”.
In 1984, Rozhdestvensky recorded it at Melodiya with the Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir of the USSR Ministry of Culture, and the piano duet of Nataliya Koridalina and Mikhail Muntian. The recording was then released on Olympia and BMG labels in 1988 and re-recorded by Melodiya in 1999. Several other recordings appeared later.