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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Romances - Complete Collection
various artists
rec. 1962–1990
MELODIYA MELCD1002361 [6 CDs: 321:19]

We tend to think of Tchaikovsky as a composer of works on a grand scale: symphonies, ballets and operas but he also worked in more intimate formats. There's no shortage of lyrical piano pieces and songs – or romances as they are often titled, not only in Russia but also in the Scandinavian countries. There are no fewer than 103 romances in this genre and they span his whole creative life from his teens (CD 1 tr. 1) to the six romances op. 73 (CD 6 tr. 13 – 18), completed just before his swansong, the Pathétique symphony.

Some of his songs are heard fairly frequently, others hardly at all. Hearing all the songs now in chronological order has further strengthened my conviction that the relative neglect of his songs is a great shame. This is not the first time a record company has issued a complete set. Naxos started a series in the late 1990s with the soprano Ljuba Kazarnovskaya which was completed almost ten years later. I reviewed the last two volumes (vol. 4 vol. 5) and could report that here was a singer with great insights and ability to communicate but unfortunately in serious vocal decline. Since the first three volumes (vol. 1 (8.554357) vol. 2 vol. 3) received high ratings from reviewers I trust I believe they are worthy alternatives to the present box. One drawback with the Naxos set was also that Ms Kazarnovskaya was the only soloist and that many of the songs were intended for male singers. Melodiya has allotted the 103 songs to no fewer than 18 singers and this should, theoretically, solve the problem. However, it isn’t as easy as that, and I will come back to that aspect in a moment.

These Melodiya recordings are not new. They were made over a period of 28 years with the most recent being from 1990. They are presented chronologically, whereas Kazarnovskaya mixes songs from various periods of Tchaikovsky’s life. In the Melodiya set one can follow the composer’s development from the simple but agreeable examples of the 1850s and 1860s to the mature groups of romances. The op. 73 songs mentioned above are arguably his masterworks in the genre.

The quality of the recordings varies a lot but everything is fully listenable. The numerous pianists are also a mixed bag – and so are the singers. They still have the objectionable habit at Melodiya of giving only the first name initial instead of the full name, but readers with an interest in Russian singers will, I hope, be able to identify a number of singers who have been heard also in the West.

Two singers are legends. Mezzo-soprano Zara Doloukhanova (1918 – 2007) was the most accomplished singer in the Soviet Union during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in opera but even more so in songs. She is mentioned as equal to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as an interpreter of songs. It is a pity that she is heard here in only one song (CD 1 tr. 6). This was recorded in 1979 when she was already past 60 but there's little suspicion of that when hearing her lively and youthful singing. Tenor Sergei Lemeshev (1902 – 1977) was at his zenith in the 1930s as an unsurpassable Lensky but also as romance interpreter. In 1938 he sang all the Tchaikovsky songs in five concerts. During the war he caught a bad cold which afflicted his lungs and for several years he sang with only one lung. The seven songs he sings here were recorded in 1962 and 1963 when he was 60. The voice had by then lost its lustre but his ability to communicate was unbroken and his phrasing remained impeccable.

Bass Ivan Petrov (1920 – 2003) is heard in three songs. He was a very good Boris Godunov (also recorded) but is a little dry-voiced as recorded here. He was, during the post-war years, without doubt one of the great Russian basses. Baritone Yuri Mazurok (1931 – 2006) sang all over the world for many years. The nine songs he sings here are strong and intense readings but he is not very sophisticated. Mezzo-soprano Irina Arkhipova (1925 – 2010) was a great singing actress, and was compared to Christa Ludwig. The five songs she sings here are among the best readings. Another mezzo-soprano, Elena Obraztsova (1939 – 2015), is internationally the best-known of the singers in this box. Her wide vibrato is not always attractive but she is an expressive artist even so. Tenor Vladimir Atlantov (b. 1939) was for many years one of the leading interpreters of Otello, a role he sang at both Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera, New York. In 1971, when he recorded two songs from the six romances op. 73, he was still a basically lyrical tenor (Lensky was his signature role) but it is possible to detect an Otello-to-be from his singing here. His wife Tamara Milashkina (b. 1934) has an attractive lyric soprano and she employs it with taste.

Two tenors, previously unknown to me, turned out to be among the best here. Konstantin Lissovski (b. 1932) is the most frequently heard singer on this set. He appears in 19 songs. A light-voiced lyrical singer, he nuances elegantly and musically and is a good communicator. He is however rather strained at the top of his voice but his soft singing more than compensates. The other tenor is Gennadi Pishchayev, who sings 13 of the 16 Songs for Children Op. 54. He is a very lyrical and intimate singer with warm tone and he rarely presses his voice beyond its limits. The songs are lovely and they are sung with true feeling for the simplicity of the music.

Unfortunately there are several other singers who mar the overall impression with wobbly and penetrating tone. Even though they have their good moments and are idiomatic in many ways the total outcome is a half measure. There are no song texts enclosed which is also a drawback.

To sum things up: Neither of the two complete sets with Tchaikovsky songs is ideal. Those who must have all the songs can find a lot to enjoy in this box but also quite a lot that is far from ideal. For really satisfying listening I would choose Joan Rodgers (Hyperion), Christianne Stotijn (Onyx) and Elisabeth Söderström (2 CDs Australian Eloquence) who also includes children’s songs by Gretchaninov, Mussorgsky and Prokofiev.

Göran Forsling
Contents List

CD 1 [54:23]
1. My genius, my angel, my friend (A. Fet) (1850s) [2:05]
2. Zemfira’s song (A. Pushkin) (early 1860s) [1:56]
3. Mezza notte (Midnight) (Anon.) [early 1860s) [2:08]
6 Romances, Op. 6 (1869)
4. 1. Do not believe, my friend (A. Tolstoy) [3:56]
5. 2. Not a word, oh my friend (A. Pleshcheyev after M. Hartmann) [2:53]
6. 3. Bitterly and sweetly (E. Rostopchina) [2:23]
7. 4. A tear trembles (A. Tolstoy) [3:51]
8. 5. Why? (L. Mey after H. Heine) [3:04]
9. 6. None but the lonely heart (L. Mey after J. Goethe) [3:12]
10. To forget so soon (A. Apukhtin) (1870) [3:42]
6 Romances, Op. 16 (1872)
11. 1. Cradle song (A. Maykov) [3:45]
12. 2. Wait! (N. Grekov) [4:08]
13. 3. Accept just once (A. Fet) [1:55]
14. 4. Oh, sing that song (A. Pleshcheyev after F. Gimmens) [3:41]
15. 5. So what? (words by unknown author [P. Tchaikovsky]) [3:02]
16. 6. Modern greek song (on the theme of Dies Irae) (A. Maykov) [3:59]
2 Romances, written in 1873
17. Take my heart away (A. Fet) [2:01]
18. Blue eyes of spring (M. Mikhailov after Heine) [2:30]
N. Isakova (mezzo), A. Bakhchiyev (piano) (1); T. Milashkina (soprano), V. Viktorov (piano) (2-4, 10, 11); K. Lisovsky (tenor) (5, 15, 18), V. Schreibmann (piano) (5), S. Zvonaryova (piano) (15, 18); Z. Dolukhanova (mezzo), B. Kozel (piano) (6); Y. Mazurok (baritone), A. Afanasieva (piano) (7, 13, 16); S. Lemeshev (tenor), N. Walter (piano) (8); E. Obraztsova (mezzo), V. Chachava (piano) (9); N. Fomina (soprano), A. Pokrovsky (piano) (12); T. Tugarinova (soprano), N. Korolkov (piano) (14); N. Krasnaya (soprano), V. Fedorovtsev (piano) (17).

CD 2 [45:24]
6 Romances, Op. 25 (1874)
1. 1. Reconciliation (N. Shcherbina) [5:14]
2. 2. As over the burning ashes (F. Tyutchev) [2:02]
3. 3. Mignon’s song (F. Tyutchev after J. Goethe) [4:28]
4. 4. The canary (L. Mey) [3:32]
5. 5. I never spoke to her (L. Mey) [3:56]
6. 6. As they kept saying: “Fool” (L. Mey) [2:16]
2 Romances, written in 1875
7. 1. I should like in a single word (L. Mey after H. Heine) [2:00]
8. 2. We have not far to walk (N. Grekov) [3:10]
6 Romances, Op. 27 (1875)
9. 1. At bedtime (N. Ogaryov) [2:51]
10. 2. Look, yonder cloud (N. Grekov) [4:45]
11. 3. Do not leave me (A. Fet) [2:40]
12. 4. Evening (L. Mey after T. Shevchenko) [2:33]
13. 5. Was it the mother who bore me (L. Mey after A. Mickiewicz) [3:02]
14. 6. My spoiled darling (L. Mey after A. Mickiewicz) [1:57]
E. Obraztsova (mezzo), V. Chachava (piano) (1); I. Petrov (bass), S. Stuchevsky (piano) (2); T. Tugarinova (soprano), N. Korolkov (piano) (3); M. Voites (soprano), I. Ivari (piano) (4); Y. Mazurok (baritone), A. Afanasieva (piano) (5-7, 14); N. Isakova (soprano), E. Bruk (piano) (8, 9, 11, 12), A. Bakhchiyev (piano) (10).

CD 3 [65:19]
6 Romances, Op. 28 (1875)
1. 1. No, I shall never tell (N. Grekov after A. de Musset) [2:47]
2. 2. The corals (L. Mey after W. Syrokomla) [3:58]
3. 3. Why? (L. Mey) [2:47]
4. 4. He loved me so much (A. Apukhtin) [2:52]
5. 5. No response, or word, or greeting (A. Apukhtin) [2:26]
6. 6. The terrible moment (N.N. [P. Tchaikovsky]) [2:44]
6 Romances, Op. 38 (1878)
7. 1. Don Juan’s serenade (from A. Tolstoy´s poem Don Juan) [2:33]
8. 2. It was in the early spring (A. Tolstoy) [2:35]
9. 3. Amid the din of the ball (A. Tolstoy) [2:22]
10. 4. Oh, if only you could (A. Tolstoy) [1:33]
11. 5. The love of a dead man (M. Lermontov) [4:30]
12. 6. Pimpinella: Florentine song (translated by N.N. [P. Tchaikovsky]) [2:42]
7 Romances, Op. 47 (1880)
13. 1. If only I had known (A. Tolstoy) [5:05]
14. 2. Softly the spirit flew up to heaven (A. Tolstoy) [2:52]
15. 3. Dusk fell on the earth (N. Berg after A. Mickiewicz) [4:02]
16. 4. Sleep, poor friend (A. Tolstoy) [3:48]
17. 5. I bless you, forests (from A. Tolstoy´s poem “John of Damascus)” [5:08]
18. 6. Does the day reign? (A. Apokhtin) [3:09]
19. 7. Was I not a little blade of grass in the meadow? (I. Surikov) [6:02]
K. Lisovsky (tenor) (1, 2, 6, 14, 15), S. Zvonaryova (piano) (1, 6, 14), V. Schreibmann (piano) (2, 15); S. Lemeshev (tenor) (3, 12), B. Kozel (piano) (3), N. Walter (piano) (12);
N. Fomina (soprano), A. Pokrovsky (piqano) (4); Y. Mazurok (baritone), A. Afanasieva (piano) (5, 11); M. Magomaev (baritone), B. Abramovich (piano) (7-9, 18); I. Petrov (bass), S. Stuchevsky (piano) (10, 17); T. Tugarinova (soprano), N. Korolkov (piano) (13); N. Isakova (soprano), E. Bruk (piano) (16); E. Obraztsova (mezzo), V. Chachava (piano) (19).

CD 4 [51:44]
16 Songs for Children, Op. 54 (1883)
1. Granny and grandson (A. Pleshcheyev) [2:51]
2. Little bird (A. Pleshcheyev, translated from Polish) [2:41]
3. Spring (A. Pleshcheyev, translated from Polish) [2:03]
4. My little garden (A. Pleshcheyev) [2:18]
5. Legend (A. Pleshcheyev, translated from English) [2:56]
6. On the bank (A. Pleshcheyev) [4:17]
7. Winter evening (A. Pleshcheyev) [4:53]
8. The cuckoo (A. Pleshcheyev after C. Gellert) [2:14]
9. Spring (A. Pleshcheyev) [2:24]
10. Lullaby in a storm (A. Pleshcheyev) [3:11]
11. The little flower (A. Pleshcheyev after L. Ratisbonne) [3:51]
12. Winter (A. Pleshcheyev) [2:11]
13. Spring song (A. Pleshcheyev) [3:11]
14. Autumn (A. Pleshcheyev) [6:31]
15. The swallow (I. Surikov after T. Lenartowicz) [3:11]
16. Child´s song (K. Aksakov) [2:49]
G. Pishchayev (tenor), A. Bakhchiyev (piano) (1-4, 6, 7, 9, 11-16); I. Arkhipova (soprano), I. Guselnikov (piano) (5, 8); S. Lemeshev (tenor), B. Kozel (piano) (10).

CD 5 [58:16]
6 Romances, Op. 57 (1884)
1. 1. Tell me what in the shade of the branches (V. Sollogub) [4:48]
2. 2. On the golden cornfields (A. Tolstoy) [3:20]
3. 3. Do not ask (A. Strugovshchikov after J. Goethe) [2:55]
4. 4. Sleep! (D. Merezhkovsky) [4:02]
5. 5. Death (D. Merezhkovsky) [1:45]
6. 6. Only you alone (A. Pleshcheyev after A. Christen) [2:55]
12 Romances, Op. 60 (1886)
7. 1. Last night (A. Khomyakov) [2:53]
8. 2. I’ll tell you nothing (A. Fet) [2:49]
9. 3. Oh, if only you knew (A. Pleshcheyev) [2:49]
10. 4. The nightingale (A. Pushkin after V. Karadzic) [3:25]
11. 5. Simple words (N.N. [P. Tchaikovsky]) [2:13]
12. 6. Sleepless nights (A. Apukhtin) [3:25]
13. 7. Song of a gypsy girl (Y. Polonsky) [2:22]
14. 8. Forgive! (N. Nekrasov) [3:15]
15. 9. Night (V. Polonsky) [4:05]
16. 10. Beyond the windows, in the shadows (Y. Polonsky) [1:38]
17. 11. Exploit (monolog for baritone) (A. Khomyakov) [4:18]
18. 12. The gentle stars shone for us (A. Pleshcheyev) [4:00]
E. Shumskaya (soprano), N. Korolkov (piano) (1); E. Serkebayev (baritone), V. Viktorov (piano) (2); E. Obraztsova (mezzo), V. Chachava (piano) (3, 13, 18);
T. Tugarinova (soprano), N. Korolkov (piano) (4); K. Lisovsky (tenor) (5, 7, 10, 11, 15, 16), V. Schreibmann (piano) (5, 10, 15, 16) S. Zvonaryova (piano) (7, 11); N. Isakova (mezzo), A. Bakhchiyev (piano) (6); S. Lemeshev (tenor), N. Walter (piano) (8, 9, 12); T. Milashkina (soprano), V. Viktorov (piano) (14); Y. Mazurok (baritone), A. Afanasieva (piano) (17).

CD 6 [46:13]
6 Romances after K. R. (K. Romanov), Op. 63 (1887)
1. 1. I did not love you at first [2:37]
2. 2. I opened the window [2:00]
3. 3. I do not Please you [2:43]
4. 4. The first meeting [1:46]
5. 5. The fires in the rooms were already out [2:45]
6. 6. Serenade (for tenor) [3:16]
6 Romances, Op. 65 (1886)
7. 1. Sérénade (E. Turquety, transl. by A. Gorchakova) [1:36]
8. 2. Déception (P. Collin, transl. by A. Gorchakova) [2:50]
9. 3. Sérénade (P. Collin, transl. by A. Gorchakova) [3:24]
10. 4. Qu’importe que l’hiver (P. Collin, transl. by A. Gorchakova) [2:57]
11. 5. Les Larmes (A. M. Blanchecotte, transl. by A. Gorchakova) [4:02]
12. 6. Rondel (P. Collin, transl. by A. Gorchakova) [1:29]
6 Romances after D. Rathaus, Op. 73 (1893)
13. 1. We sat together [2:32]
14. 2. Night [3:45]
15. 3. In this moonlit night [1:59]
16. 4. The sun has set [1:36]
17. 5. Amid sombre days [1:55]
18, 6. Again, as before, alone [2:52]
N. Isakova (soprano) (1, 3, 11), E. Bruk (piqano) (1, 3), A. Bakhchiyev (piano) (11);
Y. Mazurok (baritone), A. Afanasieva (piano) (2, 10, 12); T. Milashkina (soprano), V. Viktorov (piano) (4); E. Obraztsova (mezzo), V. Chachava (piano (5); K. Lisovsky (tenor) (6, 7, 9, 13, 16), S. Zvonaryova (piano) (6, 7, 9), V. Schreibmann (piano) (13, 16); I. Arkhipova (soprano), I. Guselnikov (piano) (8, 15, 17); V. Atlantov (tenor), F. Khalilova (piano) (14, 18)



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