Works Film Music

“The Unforgettable Year 1919”. Music to the Film

Opus 88 Opus SO

Opus 89
1951 year

“The Unforgettable Year 1919”. Op. 89


"Mosfilm" studios. Scriptwriters: V. Vishnevsky, M. Chiaureli, A. Filimonov. Director: M. Chiaureli. A screen version of the play by V. Vishnevsky. USSR Cinematography Symphony Orchestra, conductor Aleksandr Gauk.

first publication:

DSCH Publishers, Moscow. 2023


Manuscript is stored in RNMM, rec. gr. 32, f. 107

   The film The Unforgettable Year 1919 was made at the Mosfilm studio in 1951 by director Mikheil Chiaureli and it is dedicated to one of the decisive episodes of the Civil War—the counterrevolutionary uprising in Kronstadt and defence of revolutionary Petrograd from the White Guard army and foreign intervention.

Dmitri Shostakovich's Music to the Film
The Unforgettable Year 1919

   This was the second time (following The Fall of Berlin, 1949) that Shostakovich worked with Mikheil Chiaureli (1894-1974), the leader of Soviet cinema in Stalin’s time. Chiaureli was the first to bring Stalin to the screen as a revolutionary leader in the film The Great Dawn (They Wanted Peace) released in 1938, gradually eclipsing Lenin’s role with each subsequent film. After the success of his first three films about Stalin, Chiaureli began a new film based on a play by Vsevolod Vishnevsky called “Unforgettable 1919”, written for Stalin’s seventieth birthday in 1949 and performed in almost every drama theatre throughout the country.
   Conceived as a large-scale epic film and adaptation of the most important Soviet book of the era—The History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks). A Short Course, the film was made on a grand scale. It consisted of two parts, totalling more than two-and-a-half hours in length. After discussion and approval by the Art Council of the Soviet Ministry of Cinematography, the film was presented to Stalin, severely criticized (it is known that Stalin ordered the removal of all but one of the scenes featuring Lenin that Vishnevsky had written especially for the film), shortened by 45 minutes and reduced to one part. The one-part version was accepted as final and released on 3 May 1952, while the two-part version was not screened until the end of the Soviet period. However, it is the two-part version that is kept in the State Film Fund, and it is the only version available for study today. Post-war film-making was subject to the strictest regulations—if a film was revised, the earlier version was destroyed. This extremely rare case of the survival of the rejected version of The Unforgettable Year 1919 makes it possible to study today the original film material that Shostakovich had to work with when composing the music.
   The film The Unforgettable Year 1919 was released on the big screen on 3 May 1952. The press noted that Shostakovich’s music “... not only complements, but somehow remarkably uplifts the film, conveying the heroic fervour of the struggle of the popular masses and their revolutionary zeal”.
   The film was awarded the Grand Prize at the Seventh International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary (Czechoslovakia, July-August 1952).
   In 1955, Muzgiz published a collection entitled Fragments of Music to the Film The Unforgettable Year 1919. The author of the collection is not named; however, if compared to similar instances in Shostakovich’s oeuvre, it could have been done by Levon Atovmyan. The fragments have the following titles:

  1. Introduction
  2. Romance. Encounter between Shibaev and Katya
  3. Scene from the Sea Battle
  4. Scherzo
  5. Attack on Krasnaya Gorka
  6. Intermezzo
  7. Finale

   Some of these titles have become incorporated into musical practice. Shostakovich’s music has largely been revised and re-instrumented. Shortly after publication, this arrangement was released on a vinyl record performed by the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Aleksandr Gauk.
   In 1961, Sovetsky kompozitor published a collection of Fragments of Music to the Film Trilogy about Maxim (its compiler Levon Atovmyan is listed as the editor). No. 11 and No. 15 from the film The Unforgettable Year 1919 were published in it under the titles “Demonstration” and “Introduction”. Both have been considerably altered and re-instrumented.
   Full score of the film The Unforgettable 1919 Op. 89 is published for the first time in DSCH Publishers, Moscow, in 2023.