ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Dream Ð Western Poets in Russian Music, Vol. 1
PERFORMER: Sergei Larin (tenor), Eleonora Bekova (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9794
This is a fascinating disc, and one that reminds us of the importance of Western languages in cultured Russian society before the Revolution. Although the youngest of the 13 composers represented (Anatoly Alexandrov) lived until 1982, this survey goes back to the ‘fathers’ of Russian music, Glinka and Bortniansky. It is not surprising that Glinka should set Italian poets, or Cui French ones, but the most distinguished poems are those by such German literary giants as Goethe and Heine, and there is also one Dante setting by Rubinstein. These songs are by no means the deepest in the Russian repertoire, but all are worth hearing: there is a loftiness about Rubinstein’s ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ that recalls his opera The Demon, and the heartbroken loneliness of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Déception’ is characteristic of the great composer. Grechaninov’s ‘Widmung’ has powerful simplicity, and the originality of Medtner’s ‘Elfenliedchen’ will not surprise anyone who admires his piano writing.
Eleonora Bekova is imaginative here, and shares with Sergei Larin a keen sense for all this music. The tenor’s linguistic skills are put to good use in finding the detail in each song, and he uses his easy tone to produce excellent, loving performances. Roll on, Vol. 2. John Allison