ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Francesca da Rimini
PERFORMER: Akimov, Sergey Murzaev, Svetla Vassileva, Misha Didyk; BBC Singers; BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda
CATALOGUE NO: Chandos CHAN 10442
The last of Rachmaninov’s trio of one-act operas, Francesca da Rimini stands apart from the other two – and a vast number of other Russian operas – by not being drawn from Pushkin. As its title reflects, it is inspired by Dante; its libretto is by Modest Tchaikovsky, whose brother had already tackled the subject in his early fantasy overture. Premiered at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre (where the composer was music director) in 1906, it came in the wake of some of Rachmaninov’s juiciest music, but there are no ‘big tunes’ here. The love music is rich and beautiful, and elsewhere the atmospheric tone recalls The Isle of the Dead.Nothing of this is lost on Gianandrea Noseda, who conducts with a fine sense of the drama – such as it is. But his efforts (and the recorded sound) are less vivid than Neeme Järvi’s on DG. Noseda’s cast is decent, and the love triangle is well drawn by the baritone Sergey Murzaev (Malatesta), soprano Svetla Vassileva (Francesca) and tenor Misha Didyk (Paolo). Only Vassileva’s glowing account of the title role seems preferable, however, to Maria Guleghina’s for Järvi. Otherwise, the rival cast – and above all, Sergei Leiferkus’s incisive Malatesta – help to make Järvi’s performance the one of choice.