Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)
Glinka Songs (19)
Sergej Koptchak (bass); Marian LapŠanský (piano)
rec. ICN Polyart Studio Prague, 10-13 Aug 1989.
full track list at end of review
ULTRAPHON UP 0020-2 231 [64:25]


Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Rachmaninov songs (20)
Sergej Koptchak (bass); Marian LapŠanský (piano)
rec. Lichtenstein Palace, Prague, 21-24 Feb 1998
full track list at end of review

ULTRAPHON UP 003-2 231 [56:46]
Collectors operating in the basso cantante region will want to know about these two separately available discs. They come to us courtesy of Arco Diva studios in Prague where the recordings were made some dozen years ago.
Koptchak was born in Slovakia as was LapŠansky. His international debut came in Covent Garden in 1982 as Gremin. To this we can add an honour roll at La Scala, the Met, Paris, Salzburg and Munich. He has sung the expected roles and has been acclaimed in them: Godunov, Pimen, Varlaam not to mention Mefistofele, Kontchak and Fafner. Nor has he neglected Slovak composers. Works have been written for him by Eugen Suchon, Roman Berger and Ladislav Holoubek.
His Glinka is characterised by a melancholy, tender imploring and a tendency towards bel canto. His singing is affectionately rounded with a quick-trembling vibrato. There’s plenty of volume to draw on and an evident intelligent projection with the words. He is not deficient in a grand swing in The Fire of Longing (tr 14). There’s a more Beethovenian flourish in K Molli (tr 5). A darker barking Erlkönig manner surfaces in The Night Parade. There’s no doubting the needy imploring of Pushkin’s Declaration (tr 19).
The Rachmaninov songs suit him even better with many of them having brief and emotionally concentrated kernels. A wider emotional palette is called for. Before The Ikon (tr 1) is reverentially honeyed contrasting with the lyric passion in yesterday we met (tr 2) with its dynamic range from seductive tender to roaring passion. The stentor tones of I am no prophet are memorable with a piano part tolling in grandeur like the Etudes-Tableaux. Brooding picks up on the On the death of a siskin moves deftly between dark and tender. I noted the dark tolling in I beg you not leave – this world is not far removed from The Isle of the Dead. Fate has its Beethoven leitmotif and eldritch graveside manner. It’s the longest song at 7.11. The seductive honey of Morning (tr.16) reminds us of Koptchak’s range: half drowsing and half woken. Christ is risen takes us to his devotional roots more deeply driven down by the Vespers.
The Glinka booklet is in English and czech with the sung words printed in Cyrillic characters first and then in English translation. Unhelpful. Better if the words had been printed side by side though native Russian speakers will be indifferent to this. Thankfully parallel Cyrillic and English is adopted for the Rachmaninov booklet..

Rob Barnett
Two collectors’ items for those operating in the basso cantante Slav song milieu.

Full Track List


Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
1. Before The Icon, Op.21, No.10
2. Yesterday We Met, Op.26, No.13
3. I Am No Prophet, Op.21, No.11
4. All Things Pass, Op.26, No.15
5. He Took All From Me, Op.26, No.2
6. It Is Time, Op.14, No.12
7. Brooding, Op.8, No.3
8. Let Us Rest, Op.26, No.3
9. In The Soul Of Each Of Us, Op.34, No.2
10. On The Death Of A Siskin, Op.21, No.8
11. Oh No, I Beg You, Do Not Leave, Op.4, No.1
12. A Dream, Op.8, No.5
13. By The Fresh Grave, Op.21, No.2
14. Fate, Op.21, No.1
15. Song Of The Disenchanted
16. Morning, Op.4, No.2
17. At The Gates Of The Holy Cloister
18. I Was With Her, Op.14, No.4
19. Christ Is Risen, Op.26, No.6
20. Fragment From A Musset, Op.21, No.6
Sergej Koptchak (bass); Marian LapŠanský (piano)
rec. Lichtenstein Palace, Prague, 21-24 Feb 1998

ULTRAPHON UP 003-2 231 [56:46]

Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)
1. Say Not That It Grieves The Heart [2:29]
2. I Love You Was Your Assurance [2:43]
3. Tell Me Why [2:43]
4. Do Not Tempt Me Needlessly [3:09]
5. To Molly From A Farewell To St. Petesburg [3:36]
6. The Night Parade [4:59]
7. A Farewell To St. Petersburg [4:20]
8. I Recall A.S. Pushkin [3:34]
9. Call Her Not Divine [5:39]
10. Shall I Forget [2:51]
11. Doubt [5:03]
12. Soon You Will Forget Me [2:54]
13. The Lark From A Farewell To St. Petersburg [2:32]
14. The Fire Of Longing Burns In My Heart [1:26]
15. Romance From A Farewell To St. Petersburg [2:49]
16. Where Is Our Rose A.S. Pushkin [1:44]
17. Fantasia from A Farewell To St. Petersburg [6:56]
18. How Sweet It Is To Be With You [3:47]
19. Declaration [1:04]
Sergej Koptchak (bass); Marian LapŠanský (piano)
rec. ICN Polyart Studio Prague, 10-13 Aug 1989.
ULTRAPHON UP 0020-2 231 [64:25]