One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


16th-19th November


Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 – 1943)
Monna Vanna, unfinished opera (1908) Act I (orch. Gennady Belov (b.1939)) [38:06]
Songs
By my window (U moyego okna) Op. 26 No. 10 [1:58]
Sad night (Noch’ pechal’na) Op. 26 No. 12 [2:05]
The lilacs (Siren’) Op. 21 No. 5 [1:32]
The rat-catcher (Krisolov) Op. 38 No. 4 [2:24]
Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14 [5:40]
How nice this place is (Zdes’ khorosho) Op. 21 No. 7 [1:46]
Dream (Son) Op. 38 No. 5 [3:01]
Moscow Conservatory Opera Soloists: Evgeniya Dushina (soprano) – Monna Vanna; Vladimir Avtomonov (baritone) – Guido Colonna; Dmitry Ivanchey (tenor) – Marco Colonna; Edward Arutyunyan (tenor) – Borso; Mikhail Golovushkin (bass) – Torello
Moscow Conservatory Students Choir and Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
Soile Isokoski (soprano), Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
rec. live, Grand Hall of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Russia, 17 June 2009 (Monna Vanna); Järvenpää Hall, Finland, September 2013 (songs)
ONDINE ODE1249-2 [57:18]

Maurice Maeterlinck was one of the great playwrights around the turn of the last century. Many of his works inspired composers to write music of various kinds. Pelléas et Mélisande is probably his most famous creation, which besides Debussy’s opera also tempted Fauré, Sibelius and Schönberg. In Monna Vanna, published in 1902, he more or less abandoned the mysterious and vague settings of previous works and focused on more explicit historical backgrounds. This, obviously was what triggered Rachmaninov to tackle this play as an opera. He set the first act before he asked the author for permission but soon realised that Henry Février had already been granted the rights. Then Rachmaninov relinquished the idea and what remained was a first act in piano score, from which Igor Buketoff prepared a performing edition which was premiered in New York in 1984 and recorded by Chandos on CHAN8987. The orchestration heard on this CD was made by Gennady Belov. We need not go into details about the story; suffice to say that Rachmaninov, in spite of several attempts, never managed to write an opera that has been acknowledged and become part of the standard repertoire.

This doesn’t mean that this act from an unfinished opera lacks interest. His orchestral output has dramatic ingredients and he worked on Monna Vanna while staying in Dresden in 1907 when he also created his Second Symphony. This is one of his greatest creations and there are hints at greatness also in Monna Vanna. Principally speaking it is a kind of continuous melodious recitative that occasionally intensifies in arioso-like sections. The orchestra is rather active with comments on the proceedings. The choral opening to scene III is a musical highlight and it is followed by Guido’s long solo to Monna Vanna which is touchingly sung. He is portrayed with great warmth, both by Rachmaninov and by the admirable Vladimir Avtomonov. The act ends in a question mark: “We will see …” No dramatic outburst, just a fading out.

The solo singing is generally good and so is the singing and playing of the forces from the Moscow Conservatory. Lovers of Rachmaninov’s music shouldn’t hesitate. Go and buy and in the bargain you get a substantial bonus: seven of Rachmaninov’s best songs sung by Soile Isokoski with Ashkenazy at the piano. Ashkenazy’s capacity as a Rachmaninov interpreter is well known, not least from his collaboration with Elisabeth Söderström more than thirty years ago (Decca London 436 920-2, 1974-75). I have treasured those recordings since they were new and still find them irresistible but I have to admit that Soile Isokoski challenges her. She is wonderfully lyrical and sensitive in Sad night (tr. 6), even more so in The lilacs (tr. 7), which is one of Rachmaninov’s best known songs. The rat-catcher (tr. 8) is unusually humorous for a composer whose music often is on the melancholy side. The evergreen Vocalise (tr. 9) is here, sung with endearing shadings. The remaining two songs are also lovely with Dream being possibly the most hauntingly atmospheric of all his songs. Isokoski’s reading makes me hope for more Rachmaninov from her and Ashkenazy. The recordings are excellent.

Göran Forsling

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank