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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-93)
The Queen of Spades – Great Scenes.
Prelude; I do not know her name; One day at Versailles (Tri karti); I’ll sing for you; Why those tears; Forgive me, heavenly creature; You are so sad … I love you; Oh, how I detest today’s world; Do not be frightened; Poor thing! What an abyss; I am so frightened; Midnight is near; What if the clock chimes; We will drink and be happy; If sweet maidens; What is our life?
Sergei Larin (tenor) Hermann; Elena Prokina (soprano) Lisa; Vassili Gerello (baritone) Tomsky; Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone) Yeletsky; Elena Obraztsova (mezzo) Countess; Marina Domaschenko (mezzo) Pauline; Irina Vaschenko (soprano) Masha; Alexei Maslov (baritone) Chekalinsky;
Spiritual Revival Choir of Russia
Philharmonia of Russia/Constantine Orbelian.
Rec. Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory, Russia, 2001/2. DDD
Transliterated text and translation included
Great Scenes series
DELOS DE3289 [77’57]
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Delos is at pains to point out that this is not your run-of-the-mill highlights disc. This is the first issue in a series entitled ‘Great Scenes’, aiming to capture the essence of an opera on one CD or SACD. The idea is to ‘preserve the flow of an opera’s story and character portrayal’.

The line-up of soloists is certainly an impressive one. It is wonderful to note that Elena Prokina takes the part of Lisa; and Dmitri Hvorostovsky hardly needs any introduction.

Queen of Spades is, indeed, one of Tchaikovsky’s sublime masterworks, and Executive Producer Amelia Haygood’s eloquent avowal of allegiance on the booklet’s back cover is entirely justified. This opera requires a performance which is unwavering in its belief. For the most part, this newcomer is remarkably impressive in this respect. The quality of the orchestral contribution is made clear in the Prelude (Track 1), in which Orbelian gets the Philharmonia of Russia to sculpt lovely, yearning lines.

Latvian tenor Sergei Larin takes the part of Hermann. His voice is firm, his diction good. However, his opening avowal of love is not fully sustained, so that when he sings, ‘That another might possess her while I do not dare to kiss her footprints, consumes me with jealousy’, it is mightily difficult to believe him. Vassily Gerello is more inside his part (Tomsky) in his ‘One day at Versailles’. He regales us with his tale in a firm bass, moving inexorably towards the climax, ‘Tri karty’ (‘Three cards’).

Marina Domaschenko, as Paulina, is listed as a mezzo but her voice is almost that of a contralto, which gives her song a sad air and means her repetitions of ‘Mogila’ (‘Grave’) are truly ominous. She also has an ability to make recitatives highly dramatic.

Prokina makes her mark in the next excerpt, a passage that features Lisa (Prokina) and Masha (later also Hermann). Prokina is particularly beautiful of voice, clean of intonation and articulation and yet also emotive (Track 5). It says a lot that in the first excerpt from Act Two (‘You are so sad, my dear’), a passage dominated by Yeletsky, Liza’s one line is so precisely characterised it remains in the memory above and beyond Hvorostovsky’ avowals of love. This is not to imply Hvorostovsky is a failure, however. His scene from Act 3 (‘Poor thing! What an abyss …’), with its dramatically effective choral interjections, does genuinely present Hermann’s fear convincingly (track 11).

Elena Obraztsova shares the laurels with Prokina, for her account of her Act 2 Scene 2 aria (‘O how I detest today’s world’). Obraztsova’s range is little short of amazing, her tone that of double cream.

There is an element of fun to this recording, too, in Tomsky’s song ‘If sweet maidens’, wherein again the chorus makes the most of its contributions.

The casting of this disc is fascinating, with Obraztsova very well established, and with Domaschenko not yet thirty years old. Perhaps it is this mix which gives this recording a feeling of spontaneity and excitement. Very strongly recommended.

Colin Clarke

 


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Prelude

'I do not know her name'

'One day at Versailles'

'I'll sing for you'

'Why these tears'

'Forgive me, heavenly creature'

'You are so sad...I love you'

'Oh, how I detest today's world'

'Do not be frightened'

'Poor thing! What an abyss'

'I am so frightened'

'Midnight is near'

'What if the clock chimes'

'We will drink and be happy'

'If sweet maidens'

'What is our life'



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