WORKS: A Farewell to St Petersburg; Songs
PERFORMER: Sergei Leiferkus (baritone)Semion Skigin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51264 2 DDD
With an enthusiasm justified by artistic results, the Russian baritone Sergei Leiferkus continues (on both the Conifer and Chandos labels) to reveal riches of Russian song of which Western music lovers have been barely aware. A patter-song humorously depicting the fearful elation of early railway travel (clearly an ‘opera buffa puffer’, as David Brown’s excellent notes call it) unexpectedly lightens the set of twelve songs which Glinka grouped as A Farewell to St Petersburg (1840), and which are mainly concerned with more conventional emotions. Seven further songs make up this issue.
None of the songs included here carries the emotional force reached in those by Glinka’s successors Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky. But Leiferkus’s strong tone and commitment to the verse (translations and transliterations provided) hold the listener. When ‘enemies’ approach in the middle of a lullaby, the menace is not over-dramatised for the sake of contrast, but properly contained within the whole. Very rarely, as in the ‘Barcarolle’, Leiferkus’s almost-too-solid delivery left me craving for Browning’s ‘first fine careless rapture’. The piano parts demand judicious reinforcement of the voice rather than a creative spark, and Semion Skigin’s response is just right. Arthur Jacobs