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
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.