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Musical Evenings
Stankov Ensemble (Vania Vatralova-Stankov (soprano), Ivo Stankov (violin), Lachezar Stankov (piano))
rec. Studio 1, Bulgarian National Radio, 2012/14
Sung texts with English translations and commentaries enclosed.
GEGA GR25 [65:27]

The Stankov Ensemble was formed in 2008 and they have specialised in repertoire for soprano and violin and for soprano, violin and piano. In the UK they have appeared at all the major chamber music venues in London and in the rest of the country as well. Browsing the contents list for this issue was quite fascinating: a few “standard” composers but mainly names – and songs – that are rather unexpected in such a programme. Even readers with wide catholic taste will probably find some new acquaintances.

Louis (originally Ludwig) Spohr was a big name during his lifetime and his symphonies and some of his operas (he wrote a Faust) have been revived and recorded during the last few decades. He was also a great violinist and composed 18 violin concertos and also, in 1856, a set of six songs for voice, violin and piano. Four of these songs are included here and they are really nice. In particular Töne and Der Spielmann und seine Geige are very attractive melodically.

Gounod is today a better-known quantity and Sérénade from 1857 is quite frequently heard – though not in this alternative version with obbligato violin. It is beautifully sung here though Ms Vatralova-Stankov’s vibrato tends to become too wide at times.

Rebecca Clarke’s three song arrangements for voice and violin from 1926 are charming. As I was goin’ to Ballynure has an inventive violin part. Gustav Holst wrote for the same constellation and all four songs here are highly attractive. Three of them were written immediately after he had finished The Planets in 1916 and I sing of a Maiden the following year.

Oh, cease thy singing maiden fair was one of Rachmaninov’s early works, composed 1892 or 1893. In 1922 Fritz Kreisler made the version with obbligato violin heard here. Rachmaninov arranged a couple of Kreisler’s pieces for piano and Kreisler arranged several pieces by Rachmaninov. The song here is one of Rach’s most memorable.

Bliss was one of the radicals in the 1920s and who could believe that during that period he also wrote four songs for voice and violin. Three of them were never published during his lifetime but Sea Love was issued in a magazine in 1966 in connection with the composer’s 75th birthday. A true rarity. Alan Hovhaness was during various periods influenced from foreign countries that he found exotic. In Hercules he evokes impressions of the music from the Far East with glissandos in both violin and vocal part. A fascinating song, skilfully performed.

Present day Bulgarian composer Gheorghi Arnaoudov set three short poems by his older compatriot Peyo Yavorov, written during the first decade of the previous century. This mini-cycle must be counted as my find of the year so far – at least when it comes to immediately attractive melodious music.

Mish Mash was written for Sofia Jazz Meeting in 1995 and has been arranged for many instrumental combinations, including big band. Antoni Donchev himself made the arrangement for the Stankov Ensemble, which, he says, was a challenge. He added a new introduction and some new material in the middle – “a ‘mystical’ section for the voice which balances out the dazzling violin improvisation”. It is a vocalise, requiring a wide vocal range, and it is a swingin’ affair with virtuoso fiddling and piano playing.

Emmanuel Chabrier’s best known melody, Espańa is available in various versions, for solo piano, orchestra and also as a song with piano accompaniment (not by the composer). Here Simon Kent has arranged it for the Stankov Ensemble with a brilliant violin obbligato. It makes a jubilant finale to a very interesting, entertaining and unpredictable programme. Readers gunning for something unusual but accessible should search it out and rest assured that the recording quality is excellent and the performances technically impeccable and deeply committed.

Göran Forsling

Louis SPOHR (1784 – 1859)
Four Songs from ”Sechs deutsche Lieder”, Op. 154
1. Abend-Feier (Evening Rest) [2:43]
2. Jagdlied (Hunting Song) [2:08]
3. Töne (Music) [3:01]
4. Der Spielmann und seine Geige (The minstrel and his fiddle) [3:54]
Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893)
5. Sérénade [4:25]
Rebecca CLARKE (1886 – 1979) arr.
Three Irish Country Songs:
6. I know my love [2:02]
7. I know where I am goin’ [2:46]
8. As I was goin’ to Ballynure [1:46]
Gustav HOLST (1874 – 1934)
Four Songs Op. 35 for violin and voice – Traditional English Songs
9. Jesu Sweet [3:13]
10. My Soul Has Nought but Fire and Ice [0:55]
11. I sing of a Maiden [1:31]
12. My Leman is so True of love [2:39]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 – 1943), arr. by Fritz Kreisler
13. Oh, cease thy singing maiden fair, Op. 4 No. 4 [4:18]
Arthur BLISS (1891 -1975)
14. Sea Love [2:30]
Alan HOVHANESS (1911 – 2000)
15. Hercules, Op. 56 No. 4 [7:57]
Gheorghi ARNAOUDOV (b. 1957)
Lonesome Whispers:
16. Rain, always rain [3:37]
17. The joy is wrung out [2:48]
18. Against a dormer-window bumps a fly [2:41]
Antoni DONCHEV (b. 1959)
19. Mish-mash (vocalise) [5:21]
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841 – 1894), arr. Simon Kent
20. Espańa Rapsodie [5:12]



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