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Songs – Rodion Pogossov
Edward GRIEG (1843–1907)
With a water lily, Op. 25 No. 4 [2:16]; Dereinst, Gedanke mein, Op. 48 No. 2 [2:52]; Die verschwiegene Nachtigall, Op. 48 No. 4 [3:15]; Zur Rosenzeit, Op. 48 No. 5 [2:47]; Ein Traum, Op. 48 No. 6 [2:19];
Antonio Pietro CESTI (1623–1669)
Alessandro (1651): Si mantiene il mio amor (realisation by John Glenn Paton) [2:27];
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873–1943)
Oh no, I beg you, do not leave, Op. 4 No. 1 [1:52]; In the mysterious silence of the night, Op. 4 No. 3 [2:42]; I was with her, Op. 14 No. 4 [1:25]; All things pass away, Op. 26 No. 15 [1:43];
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714–1787)
Paride ed Elena: O del mio dolce ardor [3:17];
Gustav MAHLER (1860–1911)
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (1883): Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht [3:41]; Ging heut’ Morgen übers Feld [4:18]; Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer [3:07]; Die zwei blauen Augen [5:15];
Antonio CALDARA (1670–1736)
La constanza in amor vince l’inganno, cantata: Come raggio di sol [2:32];
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
The fearful minute, Op. 28 No. 6 [3:36]; Again, as before, alone, Op. 73 No. 6 [2:08]; Don Juan’s Serenade, Op. 38 No. 1 [2:40]; On the golden cornfields, Op. 57 No. 2 [3:10];
Maury YESTON (b. 1945)
Nine, musical: Unusual Way [2:57];
Rodion Pogossov (baritone); Malcolm Martineau (piano)
rec. 16–21 February 2006, Potton Hall, Suffolk
EMI CLASSICS DEBUT 3596352 [60:26]
 


EMI’s “Debut” series has been instrumental in launching several young singers and artists on the threshold of international careers. One need only remember Katarina Karnéus, Jonathan Lemalu and German cellist Daniel Müller-Schott who today belong to the top of the trade. Listening to this recital by this young Moscow-born singer I feel pretty sure that here is another artist destined for great things.
 
His choice of repertoire is catholic, covering the baroque, classics and the musical, while the core of the recital draws on songs from the central Romantic period. This also gives Pogossov opportunities to show his linguistic prowess, singing in Italian, German, English and native Russian, even opening the recital with Henrik Ibsen’s Med en vandlilje (With a Water Lily) in perfectly acceptable Norwegian, a feat that very few non-Scandinavians manage. There is the odd un-idiomatic vowel sound, but these are exceptions. His open vocal production and clear enunciation also contribute to the overall good impression.
 
Pogossov is a true high baritone, with a voice that is and has a wonderfully smooth half-voice and ringing top notes. The closest comparison I can think of is Ingvar Wixell, especially as he sounded in the 1950s and 1960s before his international breakthrough. The timbre is very similar and there is that quick vibrato that some critics call grittiness. I mention it only to give some idea about what he sounds like. I have always thought that Wixell mastered his voice excellently and that little grit in the tone only made him easily recognisable. Pogossov has a natural way with phrases – he always gives the impression of going somewhere. It is also a powerful voice but is used with wonderful discrimination. What impresses most is his seamless shading of nuance. The last of the Grieg group, Ein Traum (tr. 5) perfectly shows his capabilities. It has hard to imagine more expressive Lieder singing.
 
His singing of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky is beyond reproach and, as I have remarked on several occasions, singing in one’s mother tongue has a tendency to liberate the voice from tensions, bringing forth an innate natural beauty. Domingo singing in Spanish, Björling in Swedish, Kiri Te Kanawa in Maori are good examples. In the mysterious silence of the night (tr. 8), one of the finest songs in Russian, has all the best characteristics of a great Lieder artist, making Pogossov probably the best Russian baritone to appear since Hvorostovsky hit the headlines more than fifteen years ago.
 
Gluck’s O del mio dolce ardour (tr. 11), often sung with ponderous reverence, is here swift without being hurried. It may be more romantically expressive than classically balanced but with exquisite shadings.
 
There is also a youthful freshness to the Mahler cycle, again eagerly forward-moving. He is noticeably faster than Thomas Hampson’s comparable recording with piano on Teldec, beating him by 45 seconds in the first song. He shows his smooth half-voice to good effect in Ging heut’ Morgen and is properly dramatic in Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer, singing with biting intensity. In the inward final song Die zwei blauen Augen he is almost as moving as the aging Heinrich Schlusnus in his legendary DG recording. The Caldara aria shows his superb breath control and the four Tchaikovsky songs promise a future Eugene Onegin – the biography tells us that he has already been singing Yeletsky in The Queen of Spades. Especially impressive is Again, as before, alone (tr. 18), one of the composer’s last works, completed just before the Pathétique. He is also a demonic Don Juan in the burlesque serenade. The song from Nine is a fitting encore, sung with disarming simplicity.
 
With the ever-reliable Malcolm Martineau at the piano we can rest assured that not a nuance in the accompaniment is missed. In fact, the only thing I miss about this issue is the sung texts. They are on the other hand available on the EMI Classics website.
 
It is always thrilling to hear a young singer still on his way up and with as yet not a scratch on his vocal cords. I am already looking forward to hearing him again. I wouldn’t in the least be surprised if Rodion Pogossov becomes one of the most sought after baritones during the next two decades.
 
Göran Forsling
 

 



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