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Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Complete Songs - Volume 5
I will never name her, Op. 28, No. 1 [3:36]
Six French Songs, Op. 65[16:09]: Serenade [2:06] Disillusionment [3:14] Serenade [3:23] Let the winter … [2:58] Tears [3:00] Enchantress [1:28]
Oh, if you could, Op. 38, No. 4 [1:43]
No reply, no word, no greeting, Op. 28, No. 5 [2:30]
New Greek Song, Op. 16, No. 6 [3:52]
My mischief, Op. 27, No. 6 [2:32]
Love of a dead man, Op. 38, No. 5 [4:09]
You were in my dream [2:53]
Oh no, do not love me for my beauty [1:56]
Hamlet, Op. 67a (excerpts) [7:14]: Ophelia’s First Scene [3:12] Ophelia’s Second Scene [2:42] Grave-digger’s Song [1:20]
Hear at least once, Op. 16, No. 3 [2:01]
I never spoke to her, Op. 25, No. 5 [4:38]
Before sleep, Op. 27, No. 1 [3:21]
Look: there is a silver cloud, Op. 27, No. 2 [4:39]
Had my mother borne me, Op. 27, No. 5 [3:29]
A String of Corals, Op. 28, No. 2 [5:08]
Don Juan’s Serenade, Op. 38, No. 1 [3:05]
Ljuba Kazarnovskaya (soprano), Ljuba Orfenova (piano)
rec. Small Hall of Moscow Conservatory, 4-6 June 2006
Transliterated sung texts and English translations may be accessed at the Naxos website
NAXOS 8.570438 [72:56]
Experience Classicsonline


This series has been almost ten years in the making. Volume 1 was reviewed in May 1999 by Hugh Canning in the Sunday Times, when he wrote: "She has an exceptional voice, rich and colourful, and the attention to detail, musical and verbal, to do full justice to the art-song repertoire." I fully endorse the last half of the sentence – it is fully valid for the last instalment too – but unfortunately the first half has to be modified: “She had an exceptional voice …” Not so long ago, when I reviewed volume 4, I stressed her interpretative accomplishment: “As an interpreter Ljuba Kazarnovskaya has a lot to offer. There is no doubt that she has insights in the various sentiments of the songs and she is expressive and phrases sensitively, also through some variations in tone colour. She is also greatly helped by her excellent accompanist Ljuba Orfenova to carry over the message to the listener. The problem, and this is a serious problem, is the actual singing. I had thought that the Slavonic wobble was a thing of the past, but here it is in all its glory. There is hardly a steady note, the tone at forte is hard and grating on the ear and she sounds decidedly worn – exactly that rasping sound that often afflicts none too old singers who have been singing too much and heavy parts too early in the career.”
 
That disc was recorded in December 2005; the present volume, set down half a year later, shows that her vocal decline has gone even further. It is a sad state of affairs to hear the strain and lack of control while at the same time one hears how right her rendering of the songs is. Some years ago our American colleague gave volume 3 top rating – this attempt should be on the lower half of the scale. Of course everything is not darkness and in some songs she sounds more at ease, one even realises what vocal resources she once had at her disposal, but basically we hear a singer with lots of insight but little of voice to express it.
 
The disc is still valuable for the songs, many of them rarely – if ever – heard in recital or on records and I felt, as I did with the previous volume, that Tchaikovsky’s songs – there are more than one hundred of them – is a veritable treasure trove which I hope many other singers would pay attention to. The language is a hindrance for non-Russians? Not really today, when singers of all nationalities tackle Russian opera roles in the original language. Moreover there are quite a few songs in French. So while I regretted the vocal status of our prima donna I enjoyed the whole programme enormously.
 
Not having heard the first three volumes but trusting my reviewing colleagues’ verdict I would recommend readers to try one of them but be careful and listen first before investing in vol 4 and 5. The best interpreter and singer of these songs – to my mind at least – is still Elisabeth Söderström’s Decca recordings with Ashkenazy. But she recorded only two LPs, ¾ of which have been transferred to a well filled CD.
 
Göran Forsling
 


 


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