Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873–1943)
Viktoriya Dodoka (soprano), Iola Shelley (piano)
rec. no dates or venues given. Published in 2006.
Abbreviated lyrics in the inlay. Full English lyrics available on-line.
ATOLL ACD106 [60:52]

Russian-born soprano Viktoriya Dodoka has been living in New Zealand since 2001 and has had an important career there as an opera singer as well as a recitalist. The present disc was published almost a decade ago and I wonder why it took so long to find its way here. Listening to the first tracks I at once regretted that I hadn’t had an opportunity to hear Dodoka before. Hers is a powerful voice with a timbre that reveals from what part of Europe she comes from but she has none of the shrillness that has often affected former generations of Slavonic singers. There is vibrancy in her voice but the tone is steady, she sings beautiful pianissimos and when she opens up at climaxes – try Harvest of sorrow (tr. 2) to hear what I mean – she is glorious. Her nuanced singing is a joy to hear. The ebb and flow of the music is skilfully handled, as in A dream (tr. 4). Listen to how she lightens the tone so admirably in A little island (tr. 6) to underline the innocence of the text. The often heard Spring waters (tr. 7) is a tour de force, also for the Welsh-born pianist Iola Shelley. Twilight (tr. 8) is calm and inward and Lilacs (tr. 9), an old favourite of mine, is beautifully executed. An odd top-note is slightly unsteady but as a whole this is singing of high class. Dodoka is also very good at making the texts live and, curiously enough, what I missed in her singing of the famous Vocalise (tr. 16) was the text. The singing, though, is truly beautiful.

There is no shortage of Rachmaninov songs on CD and a bargain set on Brilliant, licensed from Chandos, offers all 85 songs in more than acceptable readings (review review review). I should also mention the 2014 Linn set presided over by Iain Burnside (review). The pick otherwise is however Elisabeth Söderström who recorded many of them for Decca with Ashkenazy at the piano in the late seventies and issued on CD in 1993. Unfortunately they seem to be unavailable at present, unless one buys a 32-CD-box with Rachmaninov’s complete works (478 6765), or is willing to download them. Victoriya Dodoka’s disc is a worthy alternative that should offer many hours of attractive listening to these songs. For many listeners these 22 songs, about one quarter of Rachmaninov’s total output, will more than do.

Göran Forsling

Previous review: Roy Westbrook

Many hours of attractive listening.
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Track listing
Op. 4 (1889 – 1893)
1. Oh, never sing to me again [4:30]
2. The Harvest of Sorrow [4:51]
Op. 8 (1893)
3. The Water Lily [1:33]
4. A Dream [1:29]
5. A Prayer [3:11]
Op. 14 (1896)
6. A Little Island [2:10]
7. Spring Waters [2:12]
Op. 21 (1900 – 1902)
8. Twilight [2:08]
9. The Lilacs [2:24]
10. Loneliness [2:11]
11. How fair this place! [1:51]
12. Sorrow in springtime [2:07]
Op. 26 (1906)
13. Before my Window [2:15]
14. Night is mournful [2:11]
Op. 34 (1910 – 1915)
15. Day to Night comparing went the Wind her way [3:20]
16. Vocalise [4:21]
Op. 38 (1916)
17. In my Garden at Night [1:49]
18. To Her [3:07]
19. Daisies [2:28]
20. The Pied Piper [3:07]
21. Dreams [3:49]
22. “A-Oo” (The Quest) [2:52]