"Simple Folk". Music to the Film
Moscow House of Cinema
Volume 131 of the New Collected Works. DSCH Publishers, Moscow, 2023
The whereabouts of the author’s manuscript are unknown. The score was restored by A. Surminsky in correspondence with the parts kept in the St. Petersburg Central State Archives of Literature and Art, rec. gr. 257, inv. 16, f. 2073.
DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH’S MUSIC TO THE FILM
In 1944-1945, Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg made the film Simple Folk, based on their own script, at the Lenfilm Studio, which resumed independent film production in Leningrad in 1944, after working for three years as part of the Central United Film Studio in Kazakhstan. Simple Folk, the working title of which was “The Tempest”, was one of the first films Lenfilm produced in Leningrad after the studio returned from evacuation. This film was Kozintsev and Trauberg’s last joint work, after which their longstanding creative collaboration, which had lasted since the 1920s, came to an end.
When Kozintsev and Trauberg proposed the script titled “The Tempest” for filming in 1943, Shostakovich was already listed among the members of the film unit. He wrote to Trauberg on 17 April 1944: “I am very glad that you have appointed me as the composer for your new film. I shall do my best to justify this high level of trust.”
Shostakovich signed a contract with Lenfilm for writing the music on 25 September 1945, when the lengthy work on the film was coming to an end. In addition to writing the score, the contract stipulated that the composer “supervises in person during recording of the soundtrack.” Shostakovich, immersed in preparations for the premiere of the Ninth Symphony, got a late start on the score of Simple Folk and wrote it in a short time, between 13 and 27 October 1945.
On 22 October, the music that had already been written was recorded. On 25 October, Shostakovich came to Leningrad again, and although this time he was entirely absorbed in rehearsals of the Ninth Symphony, which were going on almost every day, he visited Lenfilm three times (25, 26 and 27 October) to take care of financial affairs, at which time it appears he submitted the rest of the score.
On 9 November, at a meeting of the Committee’s Art Council, the film was accepted “with high acclaim” (the words of Committee Chairman Ivan Bolshakov); on 19 December, Simple Folk received the Committee’s permission for release, and the premiere held at the Moscow House of Cinema on 21 December 1945 was a great success. The film, however, was not released; it was banned as one of the “faulty” works mentioned in the Resolution of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) about the film A Great Life in September 1946. Simple Folk was released ten years later, on 25 August 1956, in an abridged version that lasted just over an hour. Among the new films released during The Thaw, the film Simple Folk appeared somewhat archaic and went unnoticed.
The whereabouts of the author’s manuscript of the score of the film are unknown. This publication is based on the score reconstructed by A. Surminsky in accordance with the orchestral parts. It consists of five items:
No. 1 Overture, No. 2 The Procession, No. 3 Entrance, No. 4 The Dream and No. 5 Finale.
It is difficult to say with certainty whether these five items constitute all the music Shostakovich wrote. But the music in the 1945 version was apparently left untouched when the film was downsized in 1956—all the surviving handwritten fragments were included in the soundtrack in full.