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Russian Romances
Elena Zaremba (mezzo), Antonina Kadobnova (piano)
rec. 2011, location not specified
No texts enclosed
MELODIYA MELCD1002319 [59:00]

Elena Zaremba has had a long and illustrious career, having made her Bolshoi debut in 1984, while still a student. From the 1990s she was regularly seen and heard in all the big houses in the West. She was a dramatic singer with intense stage presence and I have admired her on DVDs as well as in the flesh in some of her important roles. Lately, however, a tough schedule with strenuous roles has started to affect her singing. Her Marfa in a DVD production from the Liceu in 2007 was strong and imposing, but even then she was afflicted with a heavy vibrato. Four years later, when the present Russian recital was recorded, this had become even more prominent. The first Glinka song is sung with great intensity and feeling, but when she puts the pressure on the result is less than enjoyable. The second song is inward and light. Here she lightens the tone and sings pianissimo with beautiful results. However as soon as she sings mezzo-forte and above the wobble begins to intrude. The gently rocking Venetian Night (tr. 3) is truly agreeable. Glinka’s songs in general are very attractive and it’s a pity that they are not heard more often. I own an LP with Nesterenko in Glinka songs and now and then he pops up with the odd song in a mixed recital. Christoff recorded Glinka songs in the late 1950s and there have been a couple of other issues as well.

Dargomyzhsky songs are also rarities, Cui maybe even more so. His The Statue at Tsarskoye (tr. 7), sung mostly pianissimo, is a little gem. Anton Rubinstein was a towering figure in Russian music during the latter part of the 19th century, but today he is more or less marginalized – apart from his Melody in F. It is nice to hear his two songs here, and Night (tr. 9) is lovely.

With Tchaikovsky we reach more well-known repertoire and Amid the din of the ball (tr. 12) is a particular favourite of mine. Medtner is the youngest composer on this disc; he didn’t pass away until 1951. Winter Evening is dark and dramatic with a virtuoso piano part. Rachmaninov’s songs, together with Tchaikovsky’s, are probably the most popular and most frequently heard of the Russian art songs and there Ms Zaremba has keen competition. Elisabeth Söderström’s recordings with Ashkenazy were certainly recorded late in her career, but such was her understanding of the music and her ability to bring the songs to life, that they are still my benchmarks. The understanding is there also in Elena Zaremba’s readings but they are compromised through her technical deficiencies. The lack of texts is a further drawback. What could be a selling-point is the inclusion of so many songs that are not regularly heard: those by Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Cui, Rubinstein and Medtner. They are worth hearing … It’s only a pity that they were not recorded a few years earlier.

Göran Forsling

Track listing
Mikhail GLINKA (1804 – 1857)
1. The Fire of Longing Burns in My Heart [1:15]
2. I Recall a Wonderful Moment [3:26]
3. Venetian Night [2:36]
4. How Sweet it is to be with you [3:18]
5. To Her [1:40]
Alexander DARGOMYZHSKY (1813 – 1869)
6. Night’s Soft Breeze [3:20]
Cesar CUI (1835 – 1918)
7. The Statue at Tsarskoye Selo [1:15]
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829 – 1894)
8. Desire [3:32]
9. The Night [3:19]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
10. Song of a Gypsy Girl, Op. 60 No. 7 [2:48]
11. Serenade: O Child Beneath Your Window Op. 63 No. 6 [3:38]
12. Amid the Din of the Ball Op. 38 No. 3 [2:14]
Nikolai MEDTNER (1880 – 1951)
13. Winter Evening Op. 13 No. 1 [3:32]
Sergej RACHMANINOV (1873 – 1943)
14. Morning Op. 4 No. 2 [1:56]
15. I have grown fond of Sorrow Op. 8 No. 4 [2:01]
16. Lilacs Op. 21 No. 5 [1:50]
17. I wait for thee Op. 14 No. 1 [1:42]
18. Let us rest Op. 26 No. 3 [2:12]
19. Oh no, I beg you, forsake me not! Op. 4 No. 1 [1:42]
20. She is as lovely as the noon Op. 14 No. 9 [2:31]
21. In the silence of the night Op. 4 No. 3 [2:54]
22. Do not sing, my beauty Op. 4 No. 4 [4:14]
23. Spring waters Op. 14 No. 11 [2:05]