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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

WESTERN POETS IN RUSSIAN MUSIC
Volume 2. Song Recital.
Songs by Gliere, Medtner, Kalinnikov, Dargomizhsky, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Cui, Bortnyansky and Rubinstein.
Sergei Larin (tenor), Elenora Bekova (piano).
CHANDOS CHAN 9841
(DDD) [62.25]


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May I dispense with the objection first?

There is a propensity to have flattering and rather glamorous pictures of the artists in the accompanying booklets. We must get away from this idea that classical artists are the same as pop stars. For goodness sake, serious musicians are and must be above that sort of thing.

Whether the singer or his pianist are physically attractive has no bearing on their musical abilities and performances.

I found the tenor to be somewhat strained and, indeed, nasal at times. He may be more suited to grand opera where he has had some deserved success notably as Lenski in Tchaikovsky's operatic masterpiece Eugene Onegin. In the second song, a lovely song for children by Medtner, he and his voice is too heavy. A lighter sound would be better. His head voice is not always controlled although his chest voice is good.

The ballad of Catherine Howard by Dargomizhsky is naff. The second song by this composer Vanne, o rosa fortunata is vastly better and sung with real feeling.

Tchaikovsky's songs are wonderful. As far as I am aware the ones I love the most are not recorded. I am hoping someone will tell me that all his songs are available. How vastly better they are than those by Schubert. The piano parts are not just vamping out boring chords ad nauseam. The Serenade Op 65 no. 3 is really choice and the singer makes a good job of it controlling the excesses of his voice and there are some gorgeous touches. And how well French suits the song with its gentler sounds. This is a lovely song. The piano parts in Tchaikovsky's songs are simply admirable.

Two Italian canzonettes by Glinka follow and are quite charming. Glinka could write well for the piano as well as Tchaikovsky. Larin is not comfortable at the top of his range and often is harsh. When his voice is forced it is troublesome.

Cesar Cui is best known for his piano miniatures and yet he wrote ten operas, three string quartets and some super songs. Ici bas, Op 54 no. 5, presented here is a good example. The piano part is mesmerising and the performance is good:-

Down here lips brush lightly
Leaving no trace of their velvet
I dream of kisses which linger
For ever, for ever.

The songs by Bortnyansky are disarmingly simple and suit the singer.

Anton Rubinstein is another neglected composer. He wrote 20 operas, six symphonies, five piano concertos (awful to play), a Violin Concerto and two Cello Concertos. I have three of his string quartets but he is remembered for that Melody in F. His songs are special. Ein Traume is given a good reading.

The second Tchaikovsky song on this disc, Op 65 no. 4 does not work in this performance. It is a bit of a struggle and sounds disjointed. Even the pianist, who is mainly excellent, seems glad to get it over and done with.

Much to admire but, sadly, not an overall recommendation.

David Wright

 

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