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Nina Koshetz – Complete Victor and Schirmer recordings 1928/29 and 1940 and Odarka Trifonieva Sprishevskaya – Victor recordings 1928
Nina Koshetz

Alexander BORODIN

Prince Igor - Yaroslavna's aria [4:44]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Sadko – Berceuse [4:08]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Kaddish [4:29] TRADITIONAL
Eili, Eili –arranged Shalitt [4:17]
Manuel PONCE

Serenata Mexicana [3:24]
Estrellita [3:18]
Padre Giovanni Battista MARTINI (1706-1784)
Plaisir d'amour [4:34]
Fryderyk CHOPIN

É tude in E major – arranged Litvinne [4:09]
Wiosna [3:46]

Berceuse [2:34]
Snowdrops [1:47]
The flowers were growing in the fields [3:44]
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
In the silence of the secret night [2:53]
Sing not to me beautiful maiden [4:31]
The Isle, op.14 no.2 [2:02]
How fair this spot, op.21 no.7 [2:06]
Lilacs, op.21 no.5 [1:51]
Daisies [2:33]
All things pass by [1:48]
Loneliness [2:14]
Christ is risen [2:42]
To the children [3:35]
When yesterday we met [2:35]

Valse [4:15]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
None but the lonely heart [2:36]
At the Ball [2:13]

Dark eyes (Russian Folk Song) [3:08]
Amuri, Amur (Sicilian Song) arranged. Sadero [3:54]
Odarka Trifonieva Sprishevskaya (soprano) (1885-1969)
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Tzar’s Bride - In Novgorod [2:57]
The Tzar’s Bride - Mad Scene [2:55]
The Snow Maiden - To go berrying [3:23]
The Snow Maiden - How painful [3:16]
The Snow Maiden – Death of the Snow Maiden [3:19]
Sadko - Berceuse [3:12]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Mazeppa - Maria's Lullaby [2:47]
Iolanta - Iolanta's Aria [2:35]
Nina Koshetz (soprano) with Celius Dougherty (piano); Pavelvsky (piano); Leboshutz (piano); Linton (organ); Grechaninov (piano – on the Grechaninov songs); Nina Koshetz (self accompanied at the piano); Bruno Reibold (conductor)
Odarka Trifonieva Sprishevskaya (soprano) with unidentified accompaniment
NIMBUS PRIMA VOCE NI 7935-36 [64:44 + 53:34]

Koshetz’s name will always be bracketed with that of Rachmaninoff. They first met in 1915 and their close relationship led to his accompanying her on tour – the only singer he ever accompanied it would seem. After their parting they both found their ways to America though they never spoke again; a few letters were all that passed between them. Koshetz was born in 1891 in Kiev and both her parents were fine singers, her mother singing in the Moscow Imperial Opera, her father internationally, though tragedy stalked him when his voice began to fail and he committed suicide at forty. She studied piano in the Conservatory in Moscow with Safonov and composition with Taneyev, later pursuing a singing career under her teacher the great Felia Litvinne. She also rather daringly, though not inappropriately as an operatic singer, took lessons from Stanislavsky.
Her emigration to America came in 1920 and gradually she began to make a mark on the local scene. Her heyday in America, North and South, was the decade between 1924 and her retirement in 1934, when she wound down her career. Recordings and films had followed after her arrival as did a series of prestigious engagements. But a restaurant venture in 1939 was a disaster. She died in 1965.
She had first recorded in Russia in 1913 and then again for Brunswick in 1922. Nimbus concentrates on her complete electric recordings which comprise two batches, for Victor in 1928 and 1929 and for Schirmer in 1940. Collectors will know that Ward Marston has transferred the Koshetz Edition, her complete recordings, for Pearl. And Symposium has put out a single disc of selected recordings on 1137.
Koshetz’s earlier electrics are vibrant, powerful, intense and dramatic without resorting to floridity or histrionic projection. On her home territory she is highly impressive and she was quite capable of simplicity as well – try the composer accompanied Grechaninov songs. Her Ravel Kaddish makes a powerful contrast to Madeline Grey’s recording; the Frenchwoman’s poise contrasts with the Russian’s more opulent and operatic intensity. Elli, Elli has a simply magnificent climax. And yet there was another side to her. It’s speculated that Ponce wrote Estrellita for her and we can clearly hear how finely she can control her sound, how adeptly she can winnow it down. Those Grechaninov songs really do exude an affecting charm and where necessary a theatrically convincing drama, though it should be noted that there has been transposition from tenor arias! The Prince Igor and Sadko are superb examples of her art, indeed essential recordings for the vocal enthusiast to hear.
After her career had effectively ended she contracted to record a 78 album of Rachmaninoff songs for Schirmer. The recordings were not good even for the date – boxy, dry and unattractive and they robbed the voice of its natural resonance. Nevertheless if one gets past these admitted imperfections one listens to a most important body of discs recorded by a singer whose intimate relationship with composer cannot fail to be of the highest significance. Her singing is rhythmically free and the gradual deepening of the voice adds another layer of melancholy to it. It’s inevitable that it should sometimes come across as hard and unsatisfying, a corollary of the recording and also maybe rusty usage. Her voice does sound worn in To the Children but in compensation it’s also highly expressive. Lilacs is subject to some real metrical games, one of the examples of her often extreme freedom in these songs. And yet here and throughout we hear narrative singing of the most intense and rewarding kind.
Koshetz’s electric discs don’t quite stretch to two CDs’ worth so we also have the bulk – though not all – of the recordings made by her slightly older soprano contemporary Odarka Trifonieva Sprishevskaya. She recorded ten sides and Nimbus gives us eight. The voice is lighter and more girlish in timbre than Koshetz’s 1928/29 sides. There’s an unforced lyricism to it that attracts one, with a penetrating tonal command. It’s well equalized and shows sure theatrical awareness. But she too has fire – listen to the extracts from The Snow Maiden. And despite the rather distant, and decidedly unimpressive orchestral support, she really makes something of her Sadko Berceuse. These early electric Victors were recorded contemporaneously with the Koshetz Victors though in this case the company had to trudge to Manchuria to do so - a large number of Russian musicians were based there at the time including Lemeshev, Shushlin and Ina Bourskaya.
Nimbus’s transfer system is controversial but I find the results here most acceptable. There’s a degree of “spread” to the sound and a sense of room acoustic, a by-product of their own aesthetic, but one that doesn’t imply a loss of clarity. Symposium’s transfer is at a slightly higher level, leading to a slightly greater sense of immediacy but also greater surface noise. Nimbus’s Schirmer album also sounds to have been in rather better estate than the copies used by Symposium. Unfortunately I’ve not had access to the Pearls for comparative purposes.
Alan Bilgora’s notes are on the first class side, telling us a great deal of detail about Koshetz and doing so with clarity. Koshetz’s story on disc is a focused and compelling one; you will need her acoustic Brunswicks to round out the picture, for which you will invariably need the Pearl, but this conspectus of her electrics is a most persuasive and finely executed one.
Jonathan Woolf


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