Rachmaninov: Aleko; The Miserly Knight; Francesca da Rimini

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Aleko; The Miserly Knight; Francesca da Rimini
PERFORMER: Sergei Leiferkus, Sergei Larin, Anatoly Kotcherga, Sergei Alexashkin, Maria GuleghinaGothenburg Opera Chorus, Gothenburg SO/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: 453 452-2
Rachmaninov’s ‘Trittico’ has had little success in the opera house, but his three operas make an appealing package on record. Of course, they were never intended as a trilogy, though they are linked thematically by the doom to which all the sins they portray seem to lead. Unfortunately, they also share problematic librettos, dramatic weaknesses and uneven scores – but also moments of great beauty. Two share a literary source in Pushkin, while the third, Francesca da Rimini, is drawn from Dante. Their mixture of Russian, Italian and German operatic styles is in part a reflection of Rachmaninov’s considerable experience conducting opera.

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It’s not only in conveying the freshness of the early Aleko, or the power of the great monologue at the centre of The Miserly Knight and the love duet at the climax of Francesca, that Järvi and his Gothenburg forces succeed; there is a forward, theatrical momentum throughout all the performances. Sergei Alexashkin is strong in the title role of The Miserly Knight, a part written with Chaliapin in mind, and Sergei Leiferkus conveys Lanceotto’s unpleasantness in Francesca as grippingly as he sings Aleko’s lament. Sergei Larin and Maria Guleghina are ardent as the lovers in Francesca, and she stands out again as a free-spirited Zemfira in Aleko. John Allison