B Tchaikovsky: Four Poems

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COMPOSERS: B Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Toccata
WORKS: Four poems by Josef Brodsky; From Kipling; Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello; Two poems by Mikhail Lermontov; Two Pieces for Balalaika and Piano; Lyrics of Pushkin
PERFORMER: Olga Filonova (soprano), Svetland Nikolayeva (mezzo-soprano), Alexey Khutoriansky (violin), Lev Serov (viola), Marina Archakova (cello), Kirill Ershov (balalaika), Olga Solovieva (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: TOCC 0046

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Since Boris Tchaikovsky’s death in 1996, his reputation has been kept alive by the kind of strong financial backing any composer would envy. Which is not to say that he doesn’t deserve it. But the major work on this disc, the set of eight Pushkin Lyrics, is not the advertised ‘first recording’; there’s been a CD reissue of muse Galina Vishnevskaya’s interpretation.

Olga Filinova, lyric soprano of true intonation with a natural instinct for word-pointing, strains where Vishnevskaya was capable of opening up into dramatic-soprano upper reaches; this performance falls down in the settings ‘To the poet’ and the climactic credo of the poet’s freedom, ‘From Pindemonti’. That’s a pity, because Filonova and her pianist, Olga Solovieva, serve Tchaikovsky’s classical candour with pleasing directness.

The thornier angularity of the Brodsky Poems was also aimed at Vishnevskaya, but she doesn’t seem to have tackled what she diplomatically called Tchaikovsky’s ‘talented’ earlier songs; they’re worth investigating here.

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Talent, rather than genius, is in evidence elsewhere. Indeed, it’s good to hear how well Tchaikovsky was serving unorthodox duos in the last years of his life; the first Kipling setting for mezzo and viola, and the ‘Landscape’ for balalaika and piano are worthwhile additions. David Nice