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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

In the Still of the Night
Anna Netrebko (soprano); Daniel Barenboim (piano)
rec. live, 17 August 2009, Großes Festspielhaus, Salzburg, Austria. DDD
Full track details at end of review
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8589 [68:54]

Experience Classicsonline

Deutsche Grammophon has released Anna Netrebko’s first recital disc for the label. In a dream-ticket combination Netrebko is accompanied by Daniel Barenboim. All the songs bar the final two - given as encores - are by composers from Netrebko’s Russian homeland. It follows hard on the heels of her 2006 Grammy-nominated ‘Russian Album’ with the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre under Valery Gergiev.

In the tentative applause for the opening song Rimsky-Korsakov’s O čyom, v tiši nocey (What it is, in the still of night) one senses anticipation from the near spellbound audience. Early in the recital Netrebko sounds somewhat nervous and why wouldn’t she be as there can be few more exposed situations than performing in recital at the Salzburg Festival. In fact, her vulnerability is rather appealing. Nevertheless as Netrebko’s voice warms up she relaxes and demonstrates her creamy timbre with its attractive dusky tinge.

I especially enjoyed Netrebko’s ardent and forceful interpretation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Zvonče žavoronka pen’ye (The lark’s song rings more clearly). She is wonderfully expressive in the setting V carstvo rozï i vina (To the realm of rose and wine) and I loved her tender and emotional performance in Plenivšis’ rozoy, solovey (Captivated by the rose, the nightingale). A highlight is the way the resilient and expressive singer plumbs profound emotional depths in the Tchaikovsky song Otčego? (Why?). I found several of the Tchaikovsky settings splendid opportunities for Netrebko to convey her own brand of heartbreak. Barenboim’s playing throughout is as sensitive as one would expect. His artistic partnership with Netrebko is most satisfying.

I wasn’t sent what the label describe as their ‘prestige limited edition’ of these performances. I understand that it includes a hardcover, texts and translations with an extra essay; it’s on 4778867. My promotional copy must be the ‘downmarket edition’ as the accompanying booklet does not include any texts at all. This is yet another example of a major recorded company not allowing the listener to understand the meaning of these carefully chosen words by some of the world’s greatest authors. We are told that the texts with English translations can be downloaded as a PDF file from the Deutsche Grammophon website. I am extremely disappointed by this rather mean-spirited approach. Certainly not every potential purchaser is on-line. If you can be bothered and actually do manage to print them off where do you store them? This is just another marketing ploy to get the purchaser to visit the Deutsche Grammophon website. I had hoped that the famous yellow label was above all this.

The sound is clear and well balanced. I sensed Netrebko’s very personal affection for these songs. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this engaging and moving recital.

Michael Cookson

Complete Track Listing:
Nikolay RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
1) O čyom, v tiši nocey (What it is, in the still of night), Op. 40, No. 3 (1897) [2:28]
text by Apollon Maykov
2) Prosti! Ne pomni dney paden’ya (Forgive me! Remember not the downcast days)
Op. 27, No. 4 (1883) [1:29]
Text by Nikolay Nekrasov
3) Ne veter, veya s vïsotï (It was not the wind, blowing from the heights), Op. 43, No. 2 (1897) [2:14]
Text by Aleksey Tolstoy
4) Zvonče žavoronka pen’ye (The lark’s song rings more clearly), Op. 43, No. 1 (1897) [1:16]
Text by Aleksey Tolstoy
5) Na kholmakh Gruzii On (On Georgia’s hills), Op. 3, No. 4 (1866) [2:31]
Text by Aleksandr Puškin
6) V carstvo rozï i vina (To the realm of rose and wine), Op. 8, No. 5 (1870) [2:26]
Text by Afanasy Fet after a Hafiz adaptation by Georg Friedrich Daumer
7) Pesnya Zyuleyki (Zuleika’s Song), Op. 26, No. 4 (1882) [1:56]
Text by Ivan Kozlov
8) Plenivšis’ rozoy, solovey (Captivated by the rose, the nightingale), Op. 2, No. 2 (1866) [3:09]
Text by Aleksey Koltsov
9) Redeyet oblakov letučaya gryada (The line of flying clouds grows thin), Op. 42, No. 3 (1897) [3:36]
Text by Aleksandr Puškin
10) Nimfa (The Nymph), Op. 56, No. 1 (1898) [3:25]
Text by Apollon Maykov
11) Son v letnyuyu noč’ (Dream on a Summer’s Night), Op. 56, No. 2 (1898) [5:25]
Text by Apollon Maykov
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
12) Skaži, o čyom v teni vetvey (Say, when under shady boughs), Op. 57, No. 1 (1884) [3:44]
Text by Vladimir Sollogub
13) Zabït’ tak skoro (So soon forgotten) (1870) [2:56]
Text after Aleksey Apukhtin
14) Noči bezumnïye (Reckless nights), Op. 60, No. 6 (1886) [3:09]
Text by Aleksey Apukhtin
15) Otčego? (Why?), Op. 6 no. 5 (1869) [2:52]
Text by Lev Mey after Heinrich Heine’s
Warum sind denn die Rosen so blass?’
16) Serenada, Op. 63, No. 6 (1887) [3:42]
Text by K. R. (Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov)
17) Kolïbel’naya pesnya (Lullaby), Op. 16, No. 1 (1872) [4:26]
Text by Apollon Maykov
18) Ya li v pole da ne travuška bïla (Was I not a blade of grass in the field?), Op. 47, No. 7 (1880) [6:05]
Text by Ivan Surikov
19) Sred’ mračnïkh dney (Amidst gloomy days), Op. 73, No. 5 (1893) [1:51]
Text by Daniil Ratgauz
20) Den’ li carit (Amidst the day), Op. 47, No. 6 (1880) [1:51]
Text by Aleksey Apukhtin
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Když mne stará matka (Songs My Mother Taught Me), Op. 55, No. 4 ‘Gypsy Songs
Text by Adolf Heyduk
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2 [2:31]
Text by Heinrich Hart



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