The Tale of the Priest and his Servant Balda: Suite(Das Märchen vom Popen und seinem Knecht Balda: Suite) op. 36a (1933-34)
Boosey & Hawkes / Sikorski
1.Overture 2.The Procession of the Obscurantists 3.Carousel 4.Scene in the Bazaar 5.The Priest's Daughter's Dream 6.Finale
Shostakovich wrote a surprising amount of music for children. This delightful score was intended to accompany a full-length cartoon-film, based on one of the classics of Russian children’s literature, a comic fairy-tale by Pushkin, a version of the familiar story of the ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’.
A stupid village-priest hires a cheap servant, Balda (Blockhead), and treats him badly. The servant gets his revenge by unleashing, albeit unintentionally, some extremely badly behaved devils. Comic by-play is provided by the amorous fantasies of the priest’s daughter.
Although the cartoon-film was never completed, Shostakovich was sufficiently proud of the music to extract a short concert suite, full of jokes, silly tunes, snoring noises from the trombones and bassoons and, in the fourth movement, a wonderful parody of a sentimental song, ‘The rushes sighed’, traditionally sung by Russians when they are very drunk indeed.
Note by Gerard McBurney