LABELS: Le Chant du Monde
PERFORMER: Vladimir Matorine, Natalia Erassova,Viatcheslav Potchapski, Vitaly Tarastchenko, Galina BorissovaRussian State Choir & Orchestra/Andrei Chistiakov
CATALOGUE NO: LDC 288 079 DDD
With a story of love and killing among gipsies, the one-act Aleko was Rachmaninov’s diploma work as a 19-year-old student at the Moscow Conservatory, and it would be pleasant to hail it for incipient signs of mastery. Unfortunately, this Russian performance redeems the awkwardness of the structure and the frequent banality in the music no better than Harmonia Mundi’s earlier, two-LP version from Bulgaria. In the space of less than an hour, the 13 minutes comprising two dances and an intermezzo are perhaps the best part.
Repeating the mistake of the earlier recording (with Nicola Ghiuselev), there is a heavy bass (Matorine) instead of the baritone required for proper characterisation of the passionate title role. Aleko’s treacherous love, Zemfira, is represented by an edgy, wobble-toned soprano of the kind one supposed obsolete (Erassova). Chistiakov’s conducting permits a false choral entry and a thrice-repeated rhythmic distortion. Pathos may nevertheless be felt in the final moments when Aleko, after his double killing, is gently driven out from the gipsy company: ‘We have no laws, but we do not torture nor execute.’ Arthur Jacobs