The Russian baritone talks about his new recording of Rachmaninov Romances
Having previously recorded two discs of Romances – one of Tchaikovsky and the other of composers who have set the words of Pushkin – Hvorostovsky has gone for the hat-trick with a recording of songs by Rachmaninov. We spoke to him about choosing the repertoire and the challenge he’s been set by his accompanist.
Why did you choose to record this music?
I always include Rachmaninov songs in my recital programmes and the ones on this recording are my favourites – the ones I couldn’t not record. I’ve been singing this music over 20 years of my career – and I thought I had to record this now because my voice has changed, as well as my conception of the music. Everything has changed and I’ve actually grown up with these songs. I feel very close to the character of Rachmaninov’s music, it’s very melancholic, dramatic and rather dark. Next year is a Rachmaninov anniversary and my accompanist, Ivari Ilja, is challenging me to put all Rachmaninov’s songs in one recital programme… but I’ll have to think about it – that would make a big concert.
Do you have a favourite song on the recording?
Yes, ‘In the silence of the mysterious night’. I sang it once in a competition and I forgot the words. I just kept making up the words until I got to the end and, as I remember, I could barely stop myself from bursting into laughter. But it’s still one of my favourites, it’s wonderful: one of the most beautiful tunes ever written. I had so much fun recording these works, Rachmaninov songs are like little theatre plays – each is a drama within the song and as a performer you have so much to say to express yourself. Rachmaninov was famous for using some of the best poetry of his time and of course when his music combines with the great words it becomes really unique.
Are there any themes running through the whole recording?
There is one major theme: love and nostalgia. For instance, the first song on the recording uses a text from Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanja and it has a subject common to much of Rachmaninov’s music: it’s hope for happiness, it’s a sort of fatigue of fighting reality and evil, and there’s always some slither of light in the future. So I feel very much this song using text from Uncle Vanja is like a leitmotif of this recording, a theme in a way.
Following your Tchaikovsky and Pushkin-inspired discs, was this CD a way of completing the Russian Romances set?
In a way yes, it's completing the set and completing a decade of my work, so after I’ve done these recording I’ll move on and do something else – record French music, for instance. Next summer my accompanist and I plan to record some operatic repertoire but I’ll be singing this Rachmaninov repertoire this season and hopefully in Wigmore Hall later this year.
'Dmitri Hvorostovksy: Rachmaninov Romances' is available now on disc and as a download on the Ondine label
Audio clip: from 'In the silence of the mysterious night'