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Aida Garifullina (soprano)
ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien/Cornelius Meister
Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra/Vitaly Gnutov (track 15)
rec. February/March 2015, May 2016, ORF Großen Sendesaal, Vienna, Austria
Full sung texts with English translations
DECCA 478 8305 [58.53]

For her debut album released on Decca soprano Aida Garifullina has selected a collection of fifteen predominately Russian songs and arias that have been paired together with two French arias. At first sight this might seem a rather curious mix; however, the French arias are signature works of the soprano.

Garifullina is Russian born in the Republic of Tatarstan. She has already appeared at a number of prestigious venues including Wiener Staatsoper, Mariinsky Theatre, Semperoper Dresden, Wigmore Hall and Vienna Musikverein. Certainly 2013 was a landmark year for Garifullina coming to international attention as winner of the Plácido Domingo Operalia international singing competition in Verona. Having come to the attention of Valery Gergiev, Garifullina debuted at Mariinsky Theatre in 2013 playing Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro) and subsequently Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Gilda (Rigoletto), Natasha (War and Peace) and Queen of Shemakha (The Golden Cockerel).

Garifullina is in superb voice. She has real intensity, buoyancy and freshness in the two French arias. In Ah! Je veux vivre from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the soprano soars effortlessly to the high register. In the Bell Song from Delibes’ Lakmé, such a splendid vehicle for coloratura display, she is sultry, dark tinged and atmospheric. In fact it was Garifullina playing celebrated French-American soprano Lily Pons (1898-1976) who sang the Bell Song in the Stephen Frears 2016 film Florence Foster Jenkins. There are eight popular songs and ballads on the set. The best known is the Rachmaninov wordless Vocalise from Op. 34 set of songs quite gloriously. My particular favourite is Allüki a much loved folk song reflecting the soloist’s Tatar heritage and language conveyed with such aching tenderness. Deeply satisfying is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Oriental Romance (The Rose and the Nightingale) from the Op. 2 set of four songs in an alluring performance heavy with exotic perfume. Queen of Shemakha’s arias from Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel make the greatest impression. Both the Queen’s Entrance Aria the Hymn to the Sun and Seduction Aria display Garifullina’s smooth and assured singing with such attractive coloratura and effortlessly controlled power. The final track is a novelty, although one that is extremely worthy. Garifullina’s voice is laid over a recording of Midnight in Moscow played by a Balalaika orchestra taken from a 1962 Mercury Living Presence LP Balalaika Favourites.

ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien under the baton of Cornelius Meister proves to be a wonderful partner for Garifullina, providing striking playing of focus and warm colour. The various orchestral arrangements that tend to be on the syrupy side are entirely toothsome. Both the soprano’s voice and the orchestra have been vividly caught by the engineering team at the ORF Großen Sendesaal, Vienna, with first class clarity, presence and balance. In the booklet there is an uncredited essay that is helpful and mentions most of the chosen repertoire. At less than sixty minutes the release is rather short measure. How I would relish another aria or two.

This ravishingly sung album of soprano songs and arias is even more remarkable as this is Aida Garifullina’s debut release.
Michael Cookson

Track listing
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
1. ‘Ah! Je veux vivre’ from Roméo et Juliette [3.53]
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891)
2. ‘Où va la jeune Indoue?’ (Bell Song) from Lakmé [8.38]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
3. Song of India [3.20] arranged Paul Bateman
4. ‘The Snow Maiden’s Aria’ from Prologue to The Snow Maiden [4.09]
5. Serenada, No. 6 from 6 Romances, Op. 63 [3.48] arranged Chris Hazel
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
6. Lilacs (Siren), No. 5 from 12 Romances, Op. 21 [2.32] arranged Michael Rot
7. Allüki [3.42] traditional Tatar folk song arranged Paul Campbell
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
8. ‘Maria’s Lullaby’ from Mazeppa [2.55]
9. Queen of Shemakha’s Entrance aria ‘Hymn to the Sun’ from The Golden Cockerel [4.38]
10. ‘Queen of Shemakha’s Seduction Aria’ from The Golden Cockerel [2.06]
11. ‘Zdes’ khoroso’ (How beautiful it is here), No. 7 from 12 Romances, Op. 21 [2.19] arranged Michael Rot
12. Oriental Romance (The Rose and the Nightingale)’ Op. 2, No. 2 [3.01]
arranged Andreas N. Tarkmann
13. Vocalise, No. 14 from 14 Songs, Op. 34 [8.00]
14. Cossack Lullaby [3.38] traditional, arranged Texu Kim
Vasily SOLOVYOV-SEDOY (1907-1979)
15. Midnight in Moscow [2.16]
(Orchestral track by Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra/Vitaly Gnutov - Recorded June 1962 Bolshoi Hall, Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow - Mercury Living Presence LP Balalaika Favourites.)



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