“Michurin”. Music for the Film
“Mosfilm” studios. Scriptwriter and director: A. Dovzhenko
New Collected Works. DSCH Publishers, Moscow. 2020
Separate pieces in the RNMM (Stack 32, Items 262 and 263).
The film Michurin by Aleksandr Petrovich Dovzhenko,1 dedicated to the life and work of Russian biologist and plant breeder Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (1856-1935), was made during the tragic period for Soviet music after the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party(Bolsheviks) issued its resolution of 10 February 1948 regarding the opera The Great Friendship. The resolution crowned the postwar campaign to decimate Russian art, which officially had started two years earlier with three decrees tightening up the party’s policy in literature, theatre and cinematography. In the 1948 resolution, Shostakovich ranked first in the list of “anti-popular formalists” in Soviet music.
Aleksandr Dovzhenko, a renowned cinematographer, was by that time stigmatized as “revisionist” and “nationalist”, dismissed from his post as art director of the Kiev film studio and removed from the Stalin Prize Committee. After a period of working in documenary film-making, he was permitted to put on a feature film at the Mosfilm Studio. From among his several early ideas, he was asked to choose the script of a film called Life in Bloom, begun before the war and perceived by the author at that time as a filmed poem about romantic biologist Ivan Michurin, who wished to transform the earth and deck it with flowers and gardens.
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Music to the Film Michurin
During the second half of the 1940s, Shostakovich wrote music to many films; his work in cinematography in those years was essentially continuous (he would often be working on two film scores at the same time). And after the 1948 resolution, it became his main source of income since in its aftermath Shostakovich was fired from the Leningrad and Moscow conservatories in the summer of 1948.10 The first information that Shostakovich was writing music for Dovzhenko’s film dates back to July 1948, when the composer told Yevgeni
Makarov how physically tired he was after just finishing work on music to the film The Young Guard: “I have to write 12 pages of the score every day, and it’s all tutti. I am tired.” But he added that he had to finish the music for one more film, Michurin, by 25 August and was intending doing this in Kellomäki (after 1948 renamed Komarovo). Exact information about when precisely Dovzhenko asked Shostakovich to work on his film has not been found. It may have been not long before the conversation mentioned above, but it could also have happened much earlier; in any case, there is almost no doubt that Shostakovich knew about Dovzhenko’s long years of trouble with Michurin.
On 3 July 1948, Shostakovich watched the film footage already shot at Mosfilm, and two days later, after he returned to Leningrad, he wrote to Dovzhenko: “I think I will bring you all of the music by 25‑30 July. If you like it, I will immediately begin its instrumentation.”
The composer’s work on Michurin was evidently finished during the first half of September, since on 15 September Shostakovich had already told Isaak Glikman that the score of Michurin was complete. So, technically speaking, it can be said that the music to Michurin was written while the composer was staying in Kellomäki from 7 July‑30 August and during the first half of September 1948 (in Moscow).
Michurin turned out to be the only joint project Shostakovich and Dovzhenko engaged in. However, the documents that survived show that they intended working together on another film. In 1950, Shostakovich was invited at Dovzhenko’s insistence to write music for his last film Goodbye, America!, but since production of the film was stopped, the contract with the composer was cancelled.
Michurin was released on 1 January 1949. In 1949, the film received the Stalin Prize, the Labour Prize at the 2nd International Festival of Labourers in Gottwaldov (Czechoslovakia, 1949) and a prize for the best colour feature film at the 4th International Festival in Mariánské Lázně (Czechoslovakia, 1949).
The official music critique presented Michurin as an evidence of Shostakovich’s new “correct” creative strivings in the aftermath of the Party resolution of 1948.
A large part of the hand-written material we know was included in the film’s soundtrack. The musical items are numbered in the author’s manuscript of the full score, and some of them have titles. Beginning in the mid-1950s, the waltz from Michurin was often put out in Levon Atovmyan’s arrangement for cello and piano, for flute, clarinet and piano, in a light arrangement for piano in the collection Simple Pieces, and as a score in the collection Dmitri Shostakovich, Waltzes from Films. In 1964, the Music Foundation of the Soviet Union printed a suite compiled by Atovmyan from the music to Michurin.