Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Serenade, op.63/6, The Nightingale, op.60/4, At the Ball, op.38/3, Again, as before, alone, op.73/6, Night, op.73/2 (see comment in review); I should like in a single word; It was in the early spring, op.38/2, Why? Op.6/5, Does the day reign? Op.47/6
Embrace, Kiss; Spanish Song
The Octave, op.45/3, The clouds begin to scatter, op.42/3, The rose and the nightingale, op.2/2, Oh what in the silence of the night, op.40/3, The Nymph, op.56/1
César CUI
The burnt letter, op. 33/4, A statue in Tsarskoe, op.57/17, I loved you, op.33/3
Do you remember the evening? Lilacs, op.21/5, They answered, op.21/4, At my window, op.26/10, Oh do not sing to me, op.4/4, Fragment from A. de Musset, op.21/6

Daniil Shtoda (tenor), Larissa Gergieva (pianoforte)
EMI CLASSICS DEBUT CDZ 5 74232 2 [64.29]
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We are informed that the EMI Classics "Début" series focuses "on artists on the brink of major international careers, allowing them to take full advantage of the standards of expertise set by Abbey Road Studios". Before EMI give themselves any further pats on the back as public benefactors, can I point out that they are not really helping a young artist all that much by presenting him in a recital of songs in a language which not many people outside Russia know, without printing either texts or translations or even a summary of each individual song (we get a brief note from the singer and a general introduction - good as far as it goes - to Russian song). Translations cost money, I know (and a bigger booklet would have resulted), but EMI must have accumulated translations to most of the songs over the years (they have not always been so penny-pinching over this matter). And in any case, translators are not very highly paid and fresh translations of the lot would not have broken their bank. The result is that those who, setting aside the début aspect, would have liked an introduction to Russian song and might conceivably have been directed towards this disc, will have to be recommended elsewhere. Which is a pity.

Here we have a well-produced light tenor voice, very even throughout its range and with an attractive, not excessive, vibrato. His curriculum mentions Ottavio (in Don Giovanni) as among his roles, and that should give you an idea of the type of voice. Basically the songs are well-chosen to demonstrate his best points. Those few which require him to bring more pressure to bear on the voice, notably Tchaikovsky's op.73/6, find him forcing the tone, with the vibrato becoming not quite a bleat but not far off it. Top Bs and Cs (of which there is just one, in Balakirev's Spanish Song) are heavy and strenuous. They are steady and in tune, but unpleasant to the ear and he would have done better to sing those (very) few songs in a lower key.

Gergieva (Mrs. Valéry Gergiev) accompanies attentively and it says much for the music and for Shtoda's natural sense of line that, even without having any more idea as to what they are about than can be gleaned from the titles, a lot of these songs emerged as extremely attractive. I should very much like to know more about Rimsky-Korsakov's The Clouds begin to Scatter and Cui's A Statue in Tsarskoe. The Rachmaninov group is also highly effective.

For most of the Tchaikovsky and two of the Rachmaninov I was able to find scores, and I have to report some rather odd things. First of all, whatever track 5 is, it isn't Night so I hope the songs I couldn't check up on are what they are claimed to be. More diffidently, I point out that in It was in the early spring the changes of tempo don't correspond to those in the score. Diffidently, because my old Boosey edition might have been doctored to fit an English text. Less diffidently, I have to say that Oh, do not sing to me is extraordinarily slow for an allegretto and when Rachmaninov writes meno mosso they actually go faster! I took the score to the piano and remain convinced that Rachmaninov meant what he said. Also, I don't see why they need to go so slowly on the third page of the Fragment from A. Musset where Rachmaninov has specifically indicated Tempo I. However, if this suggests an overall do-it-yourself approach, the other Tchaikovsky songs to which I had scores were interpreted pretty faithfully so these anomalies are not necessarily widespread.

As a visiting card for a promising singer (though I hope he will keep to repertoire which does not push him beyond his means) this disc serves its purpose. As a recital of Russian song di per se it could have been recommended, but under the circumstances can only be so to those who know Russian. I urge EMI to conduct an urgent review of their policies over the matter of texts.

Christopher Howell

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