Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Taneyev, Glire & Gretchaninov

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Glazunov,Glire & Gretchaninov,Rachmaninov,Taneyev,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Ekaterina Sementchuk
WORKS: Various songs
PERFORMER: Sementchuk (mezzo-soprano), Larissa Gergieva (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMN 911881
Surely the most distinctive voice among the finalists for the 2001 Cardiff Singer of the World competition, Sementchuk had already been catapulted from the Mariinsky Academy for Young Singers into a worldwide career. London audiences may remember her stealing the show as Lel in Gergiev’s concert performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snow Maiden. She arrives on the scene here as fully-fledged recitalist, fulsomely recorded to resonate mid-way between the bite of older-generation mezzos Larissa Dyadkova and the sensuous colour of Olga Borodina.

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Her programme, no doubt thanks to the experience of Russian-song guru Larissa Gergieva, is perfectly poised between classic songs of love and suffering by the two greatest Russian masters of the genre and charming intermezzos by lesser figures. The Slavonic contralto of Sementchuk’s lower register comes into flamboyant play in the oriental romances of Glazunov and Grechaninov, while Taneyev’s ‘Stalactites’ showcases the mesh of lighter colour with Gergieva’s treble-range icicles of piano sound. Just when you’re wondering whether a shared recital with another Mariinsky Academy graduate might have made for greater variety, along comes what sounds here like one of the most effortlessly glorious of all Rachmaninov’s romances, the profound setting of Ivan Bunin’s ‘Night Comes’. Sementchuk and Gergieva maintain that exalted level to the end: great music-making, with just a few insecurities along the way. David Nice