> Russian Opera Arias Vol.1 [CF]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Volume 1
Vladimir Grishko (tenor)
Overtures, dances and arias (sung in Russian) from:
Queen of Spades Tchaikovsky
May Night Rimsky-Korsakov
Eugene Onegin Tchaikovsky
Sorochintsy Fair Mussoursgky
Dream on the Volga Arensky
Raphael Arensky
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/Theodore Kuchar (conductor)
Ukraine State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Sirenko (conductor)
NAXOS 8. 554843 [66’ 48"]


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The Ukrainian tenor Vladimir Grishko has earned himself a place on the international opera stage in Europe and America since winning prestigious awards thirteen years ago in the Ukraine and France. This disc features him in standard and (at least to Western ears) relatively unusual Russian operatic fare interspersed with orchestral contributions to vary its contents, indeed these instrumental tracks take up half the disc (and very well played they are too, particularly in the French horn department) making the title ‘Russian Opera Arias’ only half the story.

The reputation of Russian male voices tend to bask in the glories of basses such as Chaliapin, and there have been and are some fine baritones around too; as for tenors they don’t really stand much chance in the natural order of things given the Italians. Grishko’s voice is an acquired taste, baritonal, wide of vibrato, short of steel, sometimes uncomfortably stretched above the stave. Hermann in Tchaikovsky’s gloomy (when is he operatically never?) is a hugely taxing role, a graveyard for tenors, and here he is far less comfortable than in the extracts for Levko from Rimsky-Korsakov’s charming and richly tuneful May Night, which threatens to break into Scheheherazade at any point. Lensky (Eugene Onegin) is invested with lyrical ardour in the two arias inspired by his unrequited love for Olga. Grits’ko’s lovely recitativo style duet with the bassoon (pre-echoes of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring are striking), which dominate the start of his song (another gloomy one of course) from Mussorgsky’s folksy Sorochintsy Fair, also has a fine ending in which Grishko’s floating, falsetto is beautifully controlled and coloured. The first Arensky work is purely orchestral (the overture to the opera Dream on the Volga), followed by the Song of the off-stage singer, not a career-propelling rewarding role perhaps, but a charming aria which is mercifully at a quicker tempo, if still in the minor mode.

If you are prepared for a lot of familiar orchestral music from Eugene Onegin (Polonaise, Waltz etc) and the rest, as well as the doom-and-gloom mood which dominates Grishko’s contributions, it’s a disc worth the buy.

Christopher Fifield

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