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Myaskovsky vocal TOCC0355
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Nikolay MYASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Vocal Works - Volume One
Notebook of Lyrics, Op. 72 (1946) [16:44]
Romances on Verses by Mikhail Lermontov, Op. 40 (1935-1936) [31:08]
Violin Sonata in F major, Op. 70 (1946-1947) [20:31]
Tatiana Barsukova (soprano, Notebook): Elizaveta Pakhomova (soprano, Romances)
Marina Dichenko (violin, Sonata): Olga Solovieva (piano)
rec. 2007-20
Song texts with English translations.

Myaskovsky collectors will know that recordings of his songs are very hard to source and much of this repertoire has yet to be recorded commercially. This makes Toccata’s new series so attractive, as it’s the first in what I hope will be a complete edition of his song cycles. Eagle-eyed readers of track listings will note that there is an interloper in this first volume, namely the Violin Sonata. However, there is a historical precedent for this in that all three works here, the two song cycles and the sonata, were given at the same Moscow concert in 1947 when each received its première performance. That might, perhaps, mitigate some disappointment that the third piece wasn’t another song cycle.

This first volume therefore offers a journey’s end view of this element of the composer’s music-making. His 1946 cycle Notebook of Lyrics was his last song cycle, taking poems by Mira Mendelson, Prokofiev’s second wife, and translations of Robert Burns. The six settings are happily varied in mood, from wistful to energetic, irradiated by sympathetic piano accompaniment. To some ears the plangent fourth setting may have an almost Finzi-like lyric quality, though that is purely coincidental. The two Burns settings offer fast and even furious pleasures, My heart’s in the Highlands especially, though there’s no attempt at pastiche or Scotch Snap. Tatiana Barsukova sings this cycle well though she’s somewhat pinched at the top of her range.

Written about a decade earlier, Romances on Verses by Mikhail Lermontov is a twelve-song cycle. In his helpful notes Yuri Abdokov mentions that several songs from this cycle were recorded in 1939 by the coloratura soprano Elena Katulskaya (1888-1966), a soloist at the Bolshoi, but this is the first time it’s been recorded in full. This is the more significant and musically powerful cycle, and it has an even greater variety of moods and expressions, from ballad to cradle song, from waltz to compressed meditation, barcarolle, oriental romance and elegy. To all these demands soprano Elizaveta Pakhomova proves more than capable – and in terms of technique she is superior to her fellow soprano. Olga Solovieva is a sterling accompanist in both cycles and has proved on disc numerous times how attuned she is to this kind of repertoire.

The song cycles were recorded in 2015 and 2020 but the Violin Sonata was taped back in 2007 and is therefore the first recording of the sonata to have been made but not the first recording to have been issued. Sasha Rozhdestvensky and Viktoria Postnikova recorded it on First Hand Records back in 2017 (review) and Gregor Tassie has noted a further one by Alexey Lundin and Mikhail Lidsky, released by Moscow Conservatory and doubtless more tricky to source. I’ve not encountered it. This Toccata performance by Marina Dichenko and Solovieva is accomplished and sweetly lyric. They move elegantly through the variations of the second (of two) movements and project its Grieg-like innocence and tunefulness very well. If forced to choose, however, I would opt for the greater sense of colour and personality of the First Hand pairing.

The booklet is excellent and there are full texts, translations and well-judged acoustics – there are three separate recording locations, but it would be hard to tell. A fine start to this series, then.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Gregor Tassie

Notebook of Lyrics, Op. 72 (1946)
Poems by Mira Mendelson
Will I forget you? [1:52]
Like a Sail that flashes at times… [1:29]
Cloudless April Day [2:21]
How often at night… [4:47]
Two settings of Robert Burns, translated by Mira Mendelson
My heart’s in the Highlands [3:04]
My Bonny Mary [3:10]
Romances on Verses by Mikhail Lermontov, Op. 40 (1935-1936)
A Cossack Lullaby [5:23]
Alone, I come to the road… [3:20]
No, it is not you I love so ardently… [2:05]
To a Portrait [1:44]
The Sun [1:37]
They loved each other… [ 2:10]
In an Album [1:28]
Romance [2:40]
She sings… [1:07]
Don’t cry. Don’t cry, my child… [2:58]
From an Album [1:54]
Forgive me! We will not meet again… [4:42]
Violin Sonata in F major, Op. 70 (1946-1947)
Allegro animato [8:41]
Theme (Andante con moto e molto cantabile), Twelve variations and Coda [11:50]

Recording Details
May 2007, Moscow Theatre and Concert Centre (Sonata): April-June 2015, Studio 1, Russian Radio House, Moscow (Notebook of Lyrics): January 2020, Studio No.1, Production Complex Tonstudio, Mosfilm, Moscow (Romances on Verses)

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