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Elena Kelessidi - A Russian Romance
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 - 1893)
1. Lullaby, Op. 16 No. 1 [3:46]
2. Had I only known, Op. 47 No. 1 [4:31]
3. So soon forgotten (1870) [3:02]
4. At the Ball, Op. 38 No. 3 [2:09]
5. The Bride's Lament, Op. 47 No. 7 [6:01]
Mikhail GLINKA (1804 - 1857)
6. Fire in my Veins [1:15]
7. To a Lyre [3:28]
8. Do not tempt me [2:41]
9. Tell me why [2:13]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844 - 1908)
10. The Nightingale and the Rose, Op. 2 No. 2 [2:45]
11. In the quiet night, Op. 40 No. 3 [1:45]
12. The Wind, Op. 43 No. 2 [1:42]
César CUI (1835 - 1918)
13. I touched a flower, Op. 49 No. 1 [1:39]
Alexander DARGOMYZHSKY (1813 - 1869)
14. Young Boy and Girl [1:05]
15. I still love him [2:09]
Vladimir VLASOV (1902 - 1986)
16. The Fountain of Bakhchisarai [3:53]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 - 1943)
17. Oh, do not sing to me, Op. 4 No. 4 [4:27]
18. Lilacs, Op. 21 No. 5 [1:49]
19. The Soldier's Wife, Op. 8 No. 4 [2:13]
20. In my garden at night, Op. 38 No. 1 [1:49]
21. Daisies, Op. 38 No. 3 [2:42]
22. I wait for you, Op. 14 No. 1 [1:45]
Elena Kelessidi (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
rec. 20-21 July, 5-6 October 2007, Champs Hill, Pulborough, England
Transliterated texts and English translations enclosed
ONYX 4031 [59:01] [GF]

Experience Classicsonline

Regular readers probably know by now that my hang up - as far as singing is concerned - is vibrato. Not that I dislike vibrato generally, but when it grows too wide and insistent it mars the musical line and draws the attention from the songs and the readings. An ugly vibrato can destroy the listening pleasure completely.

Elena Kelessidi's sometimes does, which is a pity, since there is so much about her singing that is a pleasure to hear. There is no doubt that she is well inside the songs and throughout the recital she illuminates the poems through sensitive and expressive phrasing and shadings of tone. Her pianissimo singing is exquisite - just listen to how she floats the tone in the last bars of Rachmaninov's Oh, do not sing to me (tr 17) - and the soft singing in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Wind (tr. 12) is truly admirable. There is also glow and intensity in the more dramatic songs - Rachmaninov's In my garden at night (tr 20) is a splendid example.

Unfortunately there are also many examples of hard-edged and badly controlled vibrato when she sings at forte. The first of the Glinka songs is one, To a Lyre (tr 7) is much better and the light and lively Tell me why (tr. 9), where she doesn't have to push the voice, is truly agreeable. It may be that she didn't have one of her best days when some of the songs were recorded.

The disc is however of interest for some of the repertoire. Tchaikovsky's and Rachmaninov's songs are rather frequently heard and Had I only known (tr. 2) by the former and Lilacs (tr18) by the latter are as good starting points as any to sample the art of Elena Kelessidi. The rest of the songs are rather lesser known. I have an LP with the great Evgeny Nesterenko singing an attractive programme of Glinka songs - some of which he also performed at a recital at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm some twenty years ago. They are fine songs, as are those by Dargomyzhsky, who is probably best remembered - if at all - for a couple of operas. One of them is entitled Rusalka - not to be confused with Dvořák’s opera. César Cui, the least known but most long-lived of 'The Mighty Handful', is also little played today but he left an impressive oeuvre in all genres bar the symphony. The sole song by him in this collection, I touched a flower, written around 1890, is very attractive. Rimsky-Korsakov is known to all music-lovers for his colourful orchestral works and, at least in Russia, for his operas. The Nightingale and the Rose, an early song composed in 1866 when he was still a cadet in the Russian navy, has acquired some fame and was memorably recorded by Rosa Ponselle in 1939. It was included in a Naxos 3 CD box with her late recordings (see review). Elena Kelessidi sings it exquisitely but her tone is slightly uneven.

There remains to be mentioned the youngest composer and the only one born in the 20th century. Vladimir Vlasov lived until 1986 but the song included here, The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, a setting of Pushkin, was composed in 1937, the centenary of the poet's death. It is impassioned and it would be interesting to hear more of Vlasov's works.

Malcolm Martineau accompanies extremely well and the recording can't be faulted. For some seldom heard repertoire and for quite a lot of the singing this disc is worth getting to know but I would advise those interested to try to hear the disc before buying, since the vibrato can be rather trying.

Göran Forsling


 

 

 

 


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