ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich
WORKS: Four Verses of Captain Lebyadkin; Satires, Op. 109; Five Romances on Words from Krokodil; Preface to the Complete Edition of My Works and a Brief Reflection Apropos this Preface (arr. Desyatnikov); Eight Waltzes from Film Music
PERFORMER: Sergei Leiferkus (bass-baritone); Russian PO/ Thomas Sanderling
CATALOGUE NO: DG 477 6111
Satire, for Shostakovich, was rarely a laughing matter, however innocuous or banal his texts might seem. A 67-year old bullies a bus driver to deadly serious music (and Leiferkus’s blackest-sounding performance here); and when Dostoyevsky’s sinister buffoon Captain Lebyadkin welcomes ‘our century of great reforms’ at a Governesses’ Benefit Ball, the Dies Irae tolls beneath.
What could Soviet audiences have thought when Vishnevskaya and Nesterenko first performed these bluntly-phrased songs? It’s certainly curious that Shostakovich chained them together in recital – even the premiere of the Lebyadkin Verses in May 1975, Shostakovich’s last public appearance, restored the 1965 Krokodil cycle to circulation – so Leiferkus and Thomas Sanderling are right to present them as a sequence. While this stalwart bass-baritone’s tone can be unvarying, and his stentorian upper register is no longer quite as powerful as it once was, there’s kaleidoscopic colour in the idiomatic orchestrations of Boris Tishchenko (the brief but treasurable Preface to the Complete Edition of my Works was scored by Leonid Desyatnikov). The trombone slides and spiky woodwind of early Shostakovich return to grace his young-at-heart late utterances, and the Russian Philharmonic delivers them with panache in vivid sound. The waltzes, mostly efficient film-score supplementals to pay the bills and not in the Prokofiev league, are dispensible. David Nice