I’ll leave the question
to others as to why the Ukrainian baritone
Igor Gorin isn’t better known. Born
Ignatz Grünberg in 1904 he was
the son of a rabbi but soon left for
Vienna where, surviving tuberculosis,
he studied at the Vienna Conservatory.
Appointed Chief Cantor at one of the
city’s leading synagogues he found a
degree of stability before once again
embarking on a strictly operatic career,
through the good offices of his highly
supportive guide and mentor Victor Fuchs.
Fritz Busch heard him, liked what he
heard, and arranged a Czech contract.
But he was still split between his concert
and operatic career and his still-continuing
cantorial work. Events now conspired
to end his European career and in around
1934 he left, with forged papers, for
By 1937 he’d signed
for RCA Victor and was singing on the
radio networks as well as in Chicago
and Cincinnati and other houses. He
only sang at the Met once, in 1964 -
La Traviata. Alan Bilgora’s highly informative
notes report Gorin as having said that
"there were too many politics involved"
as the reason he was never asked to
return. Eventually ill health took hold
– glaucoma and asthma - and he retired
to teach, eventually dying in 1982.
This selection of his
Victors was made between 1938 and 1942
and represent the voice in its earliest
state on recordings. Together it constitutes
an impressive body of work and whilst
occasionally guilty of some gaucheries
what’s never in doubt is the sheer beauty
of Gorin’s tone. A number of the songs
are by Mussorgsky and recorded at both
ends of the recorded spectrum. The 1938
Hopak is full of broad humour whilst
1942’s All is quiet in the camp
from Khovanshchina is sung in English.
He evokes the melancholy nobility of
Sorochintsy Fair’s Reverie of the
young peasant with quite memorable
ardour and yet simplicity of means.
The mezza-voce is especially impressive
and a rare example of its deployment
throughout the disc.
His Songs and Dances
of Death are potent and private;
note how he lightens the vocal weight
in the third, the Trepak, to convey
expression with that much more intimacy.
But of all the Mussorgsky settings the
one I find most irresistible is Where
art thou, little star? where Gorin
brings such delicacy, sensitivity, warmth
and colour to bear on its expressive
heartbeat that it simply takes one’s
There are also examples
of his way with the Italian repertoire.
His Barber is sometimes quixotically
done with Gorin going his own way, employing
parlando, and taking metrical liberties
in the interests of theatrical drama.
It might not really work but it’s chock
full of personality. The Goldmark is
unusual as there’s no evidence that
I’m aware of that he ever sang Die
Königin von Saba on stage.
Similarly the Korngold Die Tote Stadt
extract, which was never issued at the
time and survived in a test pressing.
Both are sung in strongly-accented English.
The Victors are all
in first class shape and Nimbus’s transfer
system has done well by them. Occasionally
one may note a degree of insistence
in the recorded spectrum but by and
large the transfers are unproblematic.
This is a most diverting and perceptive
recital and one hopes it will garner
Gorin some new admirers – and more reissues.