Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

CD1 Dumky in the Salon
25 popular Ukrainian songs for voice and piano
Olga Pasichnyk, soprano, Natalya Pasichnyk, piano
CD2 Popular Dumky
20 Ukrainian folk-songs
Various folk artists
Opus111 OPS 30-228  
CD1 [67'49] CD2 [55'28]
Crotchet     Amazon UK  

Most music-lovers will have come across the word Dumky in Dvoøák's chamber music - the 'Dumky' Trio. But it is in fact a Ukrainian word, meaning folk songs or ballads. It's a pity that the otherwise informative and beautifully produced booklet that accompanies this two-disc set doesn't explain this.

Disc One features 25 folk-songs in settings for voice and piano by various Ukrainian composers from the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of the arrangements are attractive and tasteful, and they are superbly performed by the sisters Pasichnyk. Olga, the soprano, has a stunning voice, sings with passion and phrases with great intelligence. She characterises the music vividly, and produces a tone that is pure enough for touching simplicity yet exciting enough for drama. Her melting performance of Lysenko's arrangement of The Winds Are Blowing is as good an example as any; the delicate pianissimo has you catching your breath. However, I wouldn't recommend listening to all 25 songs on the trot. The general mood is mournful, and most of the songs are in the minor key, though there are some lively, humorous ones which the Pasichnyks do equally well.

Disc Two is quite different, and contains a variety of instrumental and vocal numbers performed by a wide range of folk artists. The voices have a pleasingly rustic quality, singing in a style intended to carry over wide open spaces. The chief instruments here are the bandura (close in sound to the balalaika) and the softer toned kobza. Listen to the improvised Dance for kobza and bandura, or Humming in the Oak-Grove, sung magically by Vasyl Nechepa.

Opus111 is a French company that says it is committed to "innovation and authenticity based on the latest musical research". This issue certainly lives up to that laudable aim. It will of course appeal to those with a special interest in the Ukraine, and there is a sizeable Ukrainian population in the UK. But there is far, far more than academic interest here; these recordings present music-making of the highest order, and give a flavour of the richness and power of this important source of European musical inspiration. The recording of CD1 is excellent, with an ideal balance between voice and piano. Certain tracks on CD2 have some minor distortion, but, given the generally robust style of music and performing here, this isn't significant.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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