MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Russian roots CHAN20245
Support us financially by purchasing from

Russian Roots
Katharina Konradi (soprano)
Trio Gaspard
rec. Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, UK, 12-14 August 2021
Texts in Russian (Cyrillic script) and German; English translations
CHANDOS CHAN20245 [73:51]

This is the third CD that Chandos has recently issued containing music related to a particular country or countries. The first one I reviewed, From Brighton to Brooklyn, was a violin/piano disc of British and American works (review). Following that it was Pohadka: Tales from Prague and Budapest featuring Czech and Hungarian composers (review). Now we have Russian Roots beginning with Beethoven’s Russian folksong arrangements and concluding with Lera Auerbach’s brief Postscriptum, which she adapted from the last movement of her Second Piano Trio. Unlike the previous discs this one is comprised of vocal music mostly with piano trio accompaniment, but with the exception of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 1 that serves as a kind of instrumental interlude. The star of the album is Kyrgyz soprano Katharina Konradi, who was new to me and who is an exceptional performer of this music. She is very well partnered by members of the Trio Gaspard, who excel on their own in the Shostakovich trio. As annotator Paul Griffiths points out in the CD booklet, not all of the composers represented have indigenous Russian roots, in particular Beethoven: “Perhaps what is enduringly Russian about them is that, enjoying a vast geography, they have all been contained—and often constrained—by the country’s history.”

Beethoven’s Russian folksong arrangements are part of a series representing various countries and nationalities. While Beethoven composed them as early as 1816, they were not published until 1941. So in that sense they fit in timewise with the rest of the selections on the disc. The first three as presented are in Russian and are very brief, while that last one is in German and double the length of the others. They are for the most part light-hearted, something that Konradi captures perfectly and the trio’s role is no mere accompaniment. In the second one, actually the first in the published order, the imagery of biting gnats is memorably depicted by the violin. While I have nothing but praise for the performances, there is an anomaly I must note: the third song here, “Oh, rivers, rivers” has four stanzas, but Konradi repeats the first stanza instead of the fourth one as printed in the booklet. While this does not change the music, it does effect the words. I checked this with another recording where all four stanzas were sung. Konradi’s Russian diction is excellent, as is her German in the song in that language. Her youthful and vibrant voice with an appropriate Slavic edge is perfect for these songs, as it is for nearly everything on the CD.

The primary attraction in the programme, I would guess, are the two substantial song cycles by Shostakovich and Weinberg. In addition to those are three vocalises, the first of which is Stravinsky’s brief Pastorale. The version here for voice was the composer’s original one from 1907. He later made other arrangements of the piece, including one for violin and chamber ensemble that can be heard in Sony’s Stravinsky edition with Israel Baker and the Columbia Chamber Ensemble. That arrangement is effective, though I prefer the original especially as sung sweetly by Konradi. Little needs to be said about Rachmaninoff’s ubiquitous Vocalise, except that this one is arranged for piano trio accompanying the soprano instead of just piano. It works well enough in any version if the singer is as good as Konradi obviously is here. What I found most fascinating among the vocalises, though, is the final number on the programme, Lera Auerbach’s Postscriptum. One of my 2018 Recordings of the Year was my introduction to Auerbach, the Delta Piano Trio’s accounts of two Auerbach works for that medium (Odradek - review). The finale of her Piano Trio No. 2 is themed with an indelible melody that Auerbach has adapted for mezzo-soprano, cello, and piano. It indeed works beautifully in this form and Konradi encompasses its lower range with success. It creates the perfect ending to a marvelous album.

Perhaps the strangest piece on the CD is Gubaidulina’s Letter to the Poetess Rimma Dalos for soprano and cello. It is comprised of a duplet, the first for voice alone and the second for solo cello. The sung part, while not a vocalise, is under two minutes and contains only the phrase “my soul” repeated several times followed the first time by “a sphinx,” that sounds as a whisper, and the second time by “a phoenix.” For the second part Gubaidulina has the cello playing microtones bowed and pizzicato simultaneously in her inimitable style.

Of the two major cycles here, I had not heard Weinberg’s Jewish Songs before. Weinberg composed these songs during World War II. They were originally published under the title of “Children’s Songs” and scored with piano accompaniment. The arrangement on this disc was made in 2004 by Alexander Oratovsky. Griffiths indicates that that was not Weinberg’s own title for the work, but assumingly given it by the publisher to silence the “Jewish-Yiddish character that is unmistakable in the music as much as in the rhymes.” While some of the verses are childlike and would appeal to younger listeners, others are sad—especially the last one “Sorrow of the Orphan’s Letter” that is moving in its bleakness. I am glad I have gotten to know this work. It will only raise Weinberg’s growing reputation in my opinion and I cannot imagine it better performed than here.

Shostakovich’s Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok, on the other hand, do not need any special pleading from me. They belong to that series of masterpieces Shostakovich composed late in his career and have received a number of excellent recordings. He wrote them for Galina Vishnevskaya and Mstislav Rostropovich and they were premiered by their dedicatees with violinist David Oistrakh. Sviatoslav Richter was intended for the piano part, but could not be there. The pianist who took his place was none other than Mieczysław Weinberg. Vishnevskaya, as with other works composed for her, has made this her own and any comers could pale next to her performances. However, when I reviewed Susan Gritton’s account with the Florestan Trio (Hyperion), I found her less histrionic interpretation preferable (review). Konradi’s approach falls somewhere in between. She employs more vibrato than Gritton, whose straighter tone is very effective in some of the songs, but Konradi’s vibrato is never excessive. She characterizes the work as well anyone I have heard, including Gritton and Vishnevskaya, and her Russian enunciation is as natural here as elsewhere on the album. Trio Gaspard are terrific partners as they are for the Florestans for Gritton. While Konradi is clearly the star, Chandos in no way shortchanges the trio with an ideal recorded balance.

Shostakovich’s early Piano Trio No. 1, which is also on the Hyperion disc along with the more famous Piano Trio No. 2, receives an eloquent account here. Cellist Vashti Mimosa Hunter’s tone is particularly gorgeous and the warmth the trio produces is infectious. The album in every way gives unalloyed pleasure and Chandos’s production leaves little to be desired. The booklet contains not only Paul Griffiths’ expert notes, but also photos of the performers and an historical one of Shostakovich with Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich. I will undoubtedly return to this CD often.

Leslie Wright

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Vier russische Volkslieder in Bearbeitung, WoO 158a, Nos. 13-16 (1816) [7:33]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Pastorale – Song without Words for Voice and Piano (1907) [1:52]
Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Jewish Songs, Op. 13 for Voice and Piano (1943), arr. Alexander Oratovsky [14:24]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 8 (1923) [12:15]
Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok, Op. 127 (1967) [22:50]
Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b. 1931)
Brief an die Dichterin Rimma Dalos for Soprano and Cello (1985) [5:02]
Serge RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14 (1912, rev. 1915), arr. Roland Vieweg [6:22]
Lera AUERBACH (b. 1973)
Postscriptum (2006, arr. 2009) for Mezzo-soprano, Cello, and Piano [2:47]

Trio Gaspard: Jonian Ilias Kadesha (violin); Vashti Mimosa Hunter (cello); Nicholas Rimmer (piano)

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount