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Russian Roots (Katharina Konradi)

Katharina Konradi (soprano); Trio Gaspard (Chandos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
CHAN20245_Konradi

Russian Roots
Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 1; Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok; Weinberg: Jewish Songs; plus songs by Auerbach, Beethoven, Gubaidulina, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky
Katharina Konradi (soprano); Trio Gaspard
Chandos CHAN 20245   73:51 mins

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There is perhaps still a tendency to typecast Russian song as essentially gloomy and soulful. This intriguing programme to an extent meets those expectations. At its heart there’s Shostakovich’s Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok, and his close friend Weinberg’s bitter-sweet Jewish Songs, Op. 13 (published and subsequently recorded on Melodiya under the title ‘Children’s Songs’). Rachmaninov also sits firmly in the ‘soulful’ camp with his Vocalise – beautifully performed here by Kyrgyz soprano Katharina Konradi, accompanied by the excellent Gaspard Trio (playing an arrangement by Roland Vieweg). Yet variety is provided with more playful and quirky works by Stravinsky, Gubaidulina and Lera Auerbach, and the album starts on a light note with four charming yet effective arrangements of Russian folksongs by Beethoven.

It’s no surprise to read in Konradi’s biography that she has had success as Sophie in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Her youthful yet attractively rich-toned voice and beguiling musicianship, with an appropriate touch of skittishness at the start of the Weinberg set, works extremely well through most of these works. Only in Shostakovich’s Blok settings does her imaginative grasp of the text she sings appear somewhat limited, most notably ‘The Prophetic Bird Gamuyan’, whose nightmarish imagery the cycle’s original dedicatee Galina Vishnevskaya, unafraid of sometimes putting characterisation above beauty of sound, made a great deal more of. As a whole, though, this is a wonderfully varied programme, including – as complement to the Blok settings – Shostakovich’s First Piano Trio, a lovelorn yet tongue-in-cheek work the Gaspards perform to perfection.

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Daniel Jaffé