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Charmes (Olena Tokar/Igor Gryshyn)

Olena Tokar (soprano), Igor Gryshyn (piano) (Orchid Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Songs by Kaprálová, A Mahler, C Schumann and Viardot-García
Olena Tokar (soprano), Igor Gryshyn (piano)
Orchid Classics ORC 100154   50:14 mins


Olena Tokar and Igor Gryshyn present a fascinating, varied recital, starting with Alma Mahler-Werfel, Clara Schumann and then Pauline Viardot-García and Vítězslava Kaprálová. Tokar’s introduction recalls that these women were ‘muses’ (ugh), but the main liner notes are insightful and informative.

Mahler-Werfel’s rambling songs benefit from these impressively shaped performances. The luxuriant bloom of Tokar’s voice is perfectly matched by Gryshyn’s old-fashioned, elastic piano accompaniments. Tempo choices are generous and unhurried; Schumann’s ‘Er ist gekommen’, often a hysterical scramble, retains poise. ‘O Lust, o Lust’ is playfully exuberant, and ‘Geheimes Flüstern’, one of the finest songs ever penned, is swoonily beautiful. Viardot-García’s songs take us across Europe. The heart-breaking ‘Haï luli’, which should be a standard repertoire piece, is performed with exemplary tenderness. The gentle clip-clopping horse’s hooves of ‘Der Gärtner’ are delicately judged. Tokar slips into effortless Russian for the lovely lullaby ‘On Georgian Hills’, reminding us of Viardot-García’s long-term companion, Ivan Turgenev. The closing songs by Kaprálová – lavish but never cluttered, lyrical but never twee – are a treat. Hers is an astonishingly original creative voice – alas, she was dead from tuberculosis by the age of 25. Both music and texts (some her own) reveal unfamiliar expressive worlds, free-floating and expansive.

Tokar and Gryshyn fully inhabit the joys, passions and pains of this music. The recorded sound evokes the intimate and warm chamber setting to which this music belongs.


Natasha Loges