For ardent Shostakovich fans and scholars this release is an obvious must, as it contains several world premiere recordings. But despite the intriguing program I am less sure I can unequivocally recommend this disc to more general listeners. These are curiosities and the musical rewards are generally rather slim. The music for the movie The Girlfriends was written in 1934 for a story about three girlfriends who become nurses during the Russian Civil War. Only a few numbers have survived; the remaining ones - in fact, the majority of them - have been transcribed (by ear) by the conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald. There are 23 numbers in all, scored primarily for chamber forces (in addition to original music, Shostakovich incorporated some popular revolutionary songs for choral forces). Indeed, the music for the first track showed up in the second movement of Shostakovich's first string quartet, and apart from that very number there is preciously little in the score that is remotely memorable. The mood is generally rather bleak and even eerie (there are parts for the theremin here as well), and the style is consistent with the style of his early ballets, but there is no trace of the invention and imagination so obvious in The Golden Age or The Bolt.
The incidental music for Salute to Spain (1936) and Rule Britannia! (1931) are generally light-weight as well, adding some pomp and circumstance to rather slim musical contents. True, there are touches of Shostakovichian ingenuity in both works, and neither work should be dismissed as completely worthless, but neither is it music I can imagine many people would want to listen to more than once.
That leaves us with what is by some distance the main attraction of the disc, the Symphonic Movement from 1945. This was intended for his ninth symphony but eventually discarded. It is a rather intense work of dark muscularity and sinewy strength, epic in conception and somberly intense. It reminds one far more of the music for the eight symphony than the music that was eventually going to constitute the actual ninth. Maybe that is one reason Shostakovich set it aside; another may be that the whole movement sounds more like a self-standing work than a symphonic movement; a third reason probably that, despite its qualities, it is not really a work quite on the level of the music of the symphonies he did, in fact, compose at the time. It also seems to be incomplete, since it ends rather suddenly and surprisingly (and last for less than seven minutes in total).
The performances are compelling throughout, spirited and bold and full of life, and the solo playing (and singing) is generally compelling. The sound is good, as are the notes. Still, I cannot really force myself to give this disc more than a hesitant recommendation - it will, to repeat myself yet again, be invaluable to those with a special interest in the composer, but the musical rewards are, overall, questionable.