ⓘ The Tale of the Priest and of His Workman Balda (film)


ⓘ The Tale of the Priest and of His Workman Balda (film)

The Tale of the Priest and of His Workman Balda Сказка о попе и о работнике его Балде is an extant Soviet animated feature film directed by the husband-and-wife team Mikhail Tsekhanovsky and Vera Tsekhanovskaya and based on the eponymous fairy tale in verse by Alexander Pushkin. The score was composed by Dimitri Shostakovich. The only surviving episode 4 mins is called Bazaar Marketplace.


1. History

In 1932 the Leningrad animator and experimentator Mikhail Tsekhanovsky launched his most ambitious project to date: an animated opera based on the fairy tale in verse by the Russian classic Alexander Pushkin, yet with a heavy ROSTA posters influence. It was conceived as the first traditionally animated Soviet feature film that used the "album method" of animation, with characters drawn on paper instead of celluloid. The film was created at the Lenfilm animation studio headed by Tsekhanovsky and his wife who also served as the directors, leading artists and screenwriters.

In 1933 they contacted the young composer Dimitri Shostakovich and asked him to write music to accompany the film. They also invited an acclaimed poet Alexander Vvedensky shortly after his return from under arrest to write additional lyrics. Shostakovich loved the opportunity to compose an innovative satirical opera with abstract characters led by his music and not by someone else. He called it "a fairy tale full of ardor, ease and joy, and writing music for it is just as easy and joyful". As Tsekhanovsky wrote during September 1934, ".he works incredibly fast without losing quality. True artist. True craftsman. Now its up to me. I must create something worth of his music. I must. Balda is the only project where I can show what Im capable of". They recorded 15 scenes by November.

Yet problems started early into the production. Tsekhanovsky, still inexperienced, was always behind the composer, facing organizational and financial problems. The first attempts to close Balda date back to 1933. In March 1936, studio executives persuaded the composer to reorchestrate his score from a symphony to chamber orchestra. Around the same time the infamous Muddle Instead of Music article was published in press, condemning Shostakovichs opera. Partially because the film now had no score, work on it was stopped and it was never completed.

Nevertheless, Tsekhanovsky compiled the four finished parts around 40 minutes and the rest of material into a full movie. Although the film was nearly finished, it was put into storage at the Lenfilm archives, where almost all of it was lost in a fire caused by the 1941 bombings of Leningrad that hit Lenfilm. Vera Tsekhanovskaya managed to save only the 4-minute Marketplace scene, and it stands alone as a classic of Russian animation. Mikhail Tsekhanovsky described the fate of his dream film as "a catastrophe".


2. Music

Shostakovich regarded the films score among his best works ever done. As he wrote, "There are a number of pieces Im happy with. Especially Balda - from start to finish". After Shostakovich died, his widow arranged to have the score completed by one of Shostakovichs students, Vadim Bibergan. The world premiere recording of the 50-minute work was made by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Thomas Sanderling and released in 2006, a century after Shostakovichs birth.

The score was published in 2005, in volume 126 of DSCH Publishers New Collected Works of Dmitri Shostakovich. This publication contains text in Russian and English.


2.1. Music Surviving and restored parts DSCH, 2005

A number of items were found either in the original composers handwriting or that of a copiers; eleven others were found only in rough draft form with missing parts or harmonies, and were restored by Vadim Bibergan.


2.2. Music Strings

Note: the exact number of violin/viola/cello/contrabass players is not indicated, except in pieces where only one instrument is to play.

1 The violin, viola, cello and contrabass parts are only present for one loud chord at the end of the piece.


2.3. Music Voices

Note: the exact number of choralists is mostly not indicated; "2+" means that there are at least two harmonic lines somewhere in a part, or at least 2 voices are specifically called for.