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DREAM: Songs by Russian composers setting Western poets Volume 1    Sergej Larin (tenor) & Eleonora Bekova (piano)   Chandos CHAN9794. 69 mins.

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This is a collection of songs by Western Poets set by some 14 Russian composers - I say 'some 14' because they are scattered through 26 tracks. There seems little point in this as a lot of Russian songs of the late 19/ early 20 century are melodic, emotional and a bit 'same-y'. You'd be hard put to it to guess the composers. There are examples by Glinka, Borodin, Tchaikowsky & Rachmaninov, people like Alexandrov, Cui, Dargomizhky & Bortnyansky and, far the most interesting, five early songs by Medtner, these little known probably because of the formidable piano accompaniments. Too long a list to type out!

The singer has a big, dark, almost baritonal voice, one which doesn't always change gear too easily, and he is no doubt at home in large opera houses. The pianist is fluent, but pedals too much in a disconcerting, resonant recorded ambience, Potton Hall, Suffolk. The recordings took place in the spring and late summer of 1999. Sometimes I wondered whether resonance had been added, but probably not so.

The packaging is bizarre, entitled Dream, featuring the artists fetchingly dressed up as if on the ballet stage in tasteful soft-focus, all dreamed up no doubt by the publicity people. To end positively, all texts supplied with translations of the four languages in which Sergej Larin sings, track numbers helpfully pointing you to the original German, French or Italian of each poem. That mixture of languages is, perhaps, the main interest of this selection, Volume 1 of a projected series. Hard to rate, but more for those with a particular interest in that repertoire, I thought, since many of the songs would not be readily available elsewhere.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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