Falla: Siete Canciones populares españolas; plus songs by Duparc, Rachmaninov, Taktakishvili, Tchaikovsky and Tosti
Anita Rachvelishvili (mezzo-soprano), Vincenzo Scalera (piano)
Sony Classical 19439737022 55:36 mins
Anita Rachvelishvili is a powerhouse mezzo-soprano from Georgia who has excelled in big operatic repertoire. Yet her second solo recording for Sony is a more intimate affair, her gloriously rich timbre suitably tempered to accommodate a sequence of songs delivered in five different languages.
As one might expect, she shows a strong affinity for the Russian songs: her renditions of Tchaikovsky’s ‘None but the lonely heart’ and ‘Reconciliation’ have great warmth and expressivity and she brings requisite pathos and nostalgia to five Rachmaninov songs, the haunting ‘Ne poy, krasavitsa, prim ne’ a particular highlight. Honing a similarly lyrical vein to the two Russian masters but with a slightly more exotic twist, Georgian composer Otar Taktakishvili is featured here with the wonderfully evocative ‘Mzeo Tibatvis’, the only regret being that Rachvelishvili doesn’t include further songs from this undeniably gifted figure.
The rest is more of a mixed bag. Three songs by Tosti are beautifully done, Rachvelishvili conveying the heartfelt passion in the mellifluous vocal lines without ever becoming sentimental. I’m less convinced by her Duparc: more subtle shading of the vocal line, particularly in ‘La vie antérieure’, would have been welcome, while Vincenzo Scalera, who is generally excellent in the other repertoire, makes heavy weather of the piano accompaniments. Rachvelishvili and Scalera recover their equilibrium in Falla’s Siete Canciones populares españolas. Perhaps Rachvelishvili’s ‘Jota’ and ‘Canción’ could have slightly more grace and seductive charm. But there’s no mistaking the smouldering passion of ‘Polo’ which literally hits you for six with the blistering intensity of her singing.