Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Julia Sukmanova (soprano), Elena Sukmanova (piano)
rec. 2015, Hamburg

Rachmaninov was a fine song-writer, but possibly because of the language issues his songs will never be as widely known as his piano music. This collection by the German partnership of Julia and Elena Sukmanova brings some worthwhile performances to the catalogue, aided by a fine and atmospheric recorded sound, though cut at an extremely high level which might catch out the unwary listener in terms of dynamic range.

The songs cover a period of more than twenty years of the composer’s development, but there is no need to consider the earlier examples as stages on a path to later matery. Indeed, Rachmaninov wrote no song finer than ʽSing not to me, beautiful maiden’, opus 4 no. 4, whose performance here as the first item in the recital sets a high standard of expectation that is rewarded elsewhere. There is a full range of intensity and power, while in the lullaby ʽTo the children’, opus 26 no. 7, on the other hand, the sensitivity is captured most appropriately. In all, this is a thoughtfully compiled recital, skilfully and sensitively performed.

In the CD format song recitals pose challenges of presentation, however, and Hänssler fails dismally to meet those challenges. To begin with, the booklet contains no listing of the featured songs, and these important details can only be found on the back of the box, with the inevitable result that the perspex surface reflects the light and it is therefore hard to read the tiny print. There are full and useful biographies, and Julia Sukmanova’s notes about the music are thorough enough. But of texts and translations there is no sign, either in print in the booklet note or via link to a website. For these reasons alone this new issue provides little competition to the excellent Chandos 3-CD collection recorded by Joan Rodgers (soprano), Maria Popescu (contralto), Alexandre Naoumenko (tenor), Sergei Leiferkus (baritone), and Howard Shelley (piano). Each of these discs can be acquired singly, although the recital of collected songs for soprano is currently only available as a download.

Terry Barfoot

Songs, op.4 (1893)
no.4 Sing not to me, beautiful maiden
Songs, op.8 (1893)
no.2 Child, thou art as beautiful as a Flower
no.4 I fell in love, to my sorrow
no.5 The Dream
Songs, op.38 (1916)
no.3 Daisies
no.4 The Rat-Catcher
no.6 A-oo!
Songs, op.14 (1896)
no.1 I Wait For Thee
no.2 The Isle
no.3 For long there has been little consolation in love
no.4 I was with Her
no.6 How everyone loves thee
no.7 Believe me not, Friend
no.8 Oh, do not grieve
no.9 She is as Lovely as the Noon
no.10 Before the Icon
no.11 Spring Waters
no.12 'Tis Time
Songs, op.21 (1902)
no.5 Lilacs
no.6 Loneliness
Songs, op.26 (1906)
no. 7 To the children
no.10 Before my Window
no.12 Night is Mournful
no.15 All Things Pass By
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