Collection: Russian Arias, Vol. 2

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mussorgsky,Rachmaninov & Tchaikovsky,Rimsky-Korsakov
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Opera arias by Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov & Tchaikovsky
PERFORMER: Sergei Aleksashkin (bass)Ambrosian opera Chorus, Philharmonia Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky


Following Sergei Larin’s terrific recital of tenor arias (reviewed in August), Vol. 2 of Chandos’s survey focuses on the bass. In fact, Sergei Aleksashkin’s voice is so immense in its range and so flexible that many of the extracts here are more readily associated with baritones (Galitzky and the eponymous hero in Borodin’s Prince Igor; the hero of Rachmaninov’s one-act Aleko).

It is a magnificent sound: sonorous, brooding and apparently bottomless; and he is a fine actor, switching convincingly between characters, from the rowdiness of Varlaam’s drunken account of the siege of Kazan in Boris Godunov; to Gremin’s touching, deeply felt tribute to Tatiana in Eugene Onegin; from Aleko’s impassioned but regretful reminiscence of ardour grown cold in the famous cavatina, to the chilling, murderous envy in Salieri’s three monologues from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart and Salieri (the role, incidentally, that made Chaliapin famous).

Aleksashkin is an excellent rather than exceptional performer: there are singers specialising in similar repertory with greater beauty of tone (Hvorostovsky) and more distinctive style (Leiferkus). But Rozhdestvensky’s outstanding shaping of the orchestra secures a fifth star.


This is not especially subtle playing from the Philharmonia, but it is inspired and gloriously emotional, the texts expressed not merely verbally but in every note. Claire Wrathall