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Russian Romantic Songs
Alexander DUBUQUE (1812-1897) Do not chide me, dearest mother [3:00], The two farewells [3:30], Serenade [1:27], When my eyes fall on you [1:52], Adieu [1:50]; Pyotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Amid the din of the ball [2:13]; Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857) Will I forget [2:25]; Alexander VARLAMOV (1801-1848)O never speak of it, my love [2:25], Reminder [4:38]; A. IVANOV-KRAMSKOY (1912-1993) (guitar solos) A sad mood (3:52), Nocturne [2:29], Waltz [2:48], A gust of wind [2:51]; N. SHIRIAYEV: To hold you close, to love and cover you with tears [3:11];V.N. PASKHALOV (1841-1885) Do not ask of me [2:14]; P.P. BULAKHOV (1822-1885) A dainty mouth pursed in anger [1:32]; Ivan RYBASOV (1846-1877) None but you [2:28]; A. SPIRO: Likeness [1:23]; E. YURYEV: In vain we love and fret [3:38]
Kaia Urb (soprano); Heiki Mätlik (guitar)
rec. 7-9 Oct 2001, Estonian Radio, Tallinn.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 907 386 [51:02]


Of the virtues attributable to the classical guitar, the intimate nature of the instrument ranks highly. Ironically it is that very characteristic which for so long relegated the guitar to the salon where it remained until rescued and promoted to the concert platform by the great Andrès Segovia (1893-1987).

Perhaps it is this intimate nature that makes the guitar so ideally suited to accompaniment of the human voice, especially the female’s. Many composers including Schubert and Villa-Lobos pursued guitar/voice combinations. Although his beautiful Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 was originally written for voice and eight cellos, Villa-Lobos also did an arrangement for voice and solo guitar. This latter version, particularly when strict attention is paid to tempo, most accurately emulates the text of the poem by Portuguese poet Ruth Correa on which the aria was based

The review disc presents a programme of Russian romantic songs with guitar accompaniment; also included are four solos for guitar. Eleven Russian composers are represented including Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Ivanov-Kramskoy and Dubuque with the latter three given pre-eminence. Twelve different writers contributed text for the songs and A. Ivanov-Kramskoy composed the guitar solos.

The programme has been selected with great care and superb taste; each song is an absolute gem. While some are more light-hearted than others, among most is a common thread of what the Portuguese refer to as saudade;personified in the fado; no equivalent word in English exists but loosely translated it means melancholy and longing. Provided in the superb presentation is an English translation of all the songs that assists articulation of emotions engendered by aural impressions.

While each track is so enjoyable and thus automatically perceived as short, in reality none is longer than 4:38 and most average around two minutes.

Estonian soprano Kaia Urb graduated from Tallinn State University and later studied with Lilian Gentele in Stockholm. She has been the soprano soloist for the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir since 1982. Ms. Urb frequently collaborates with Neeme Järvi and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and many others. Described as having ‘natural musical talent and flawless technique’ with a repertory that spans from baroque to 20th Century music she has five previous releases on harmonia mundi.

From 1975 to 1979 Heiki Mätlik studied guitar in Tallinn under Igor Klimenkov at the Georg Ots School of Music. He later studied in Moscow with Juir Judin, and took master classes with David Russell and Angelo Gilardino. At the Madrid Conservatoire he studied with Prof. Jose Luis Rodrigo. His extensive discography includes more than twenty releases

First impressions are important and few review discs inhibit a propensity to truncate tracks and move onto the next. Such is the quality of everything about this disc that each track is completed before the spell is broken, and immediately the next track commences a new one is woven. The programme is excellent, singing superb and the guitar playing complementary in accompaniment and entertaining in solo.

Accompaniment per se is an art and Heiki Mätlik is a good example of accompaniment synergy - one plus one equals three. At no time is the guitar overbearing, and the instrument played, a 1988 model by Manuel Bellido, produces a beautiful sound both in accompaniment and in the four solos by A. Ivanov-Kramskoy.

On this occasion the challenge for the guitarist is that he is contrasted with the most beautiful of all instruments - the female human voice - and I challenge anybody to produce a finer contextual example than that provided on the review disc. It would not surprise me to see this disc win relevant awards for excellence. Highly recommended and not to be missed.

Zane Turner


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