Pauline Viardot: Russian Songs

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COMPOSERS: Pauline Viardot
LABELS: Toccata Classics
WORKS: Russian Songs; Chopin Mazurkas (arr. Viardot)
PERFORMER: Ina Kancheva (soprano), Kamelia Kader (mezzo), Christo Tanev (cello), Ludmil Angelov (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Toccata Classics TOCC 0303


One of the great singers of her day, Pauline Viardot was also a prolific composer, with more than 100 songs and half a dozen small-scale operas (or operettas) to her credit.

This selection brings together 15 songs to Russian texts – all of them apparently new to disc – plus two sets of vocal arrangements of Chopin’s mazurkas with rather ordinary French words attached; slight as these feel, Chopin was apparently willing to perform them with Viardot in public.

Published during her long retirement as a singer, the Russian songs are rather more interesting. The Russian writer Ivan Turgenev spent much of his life living with Viardot and her husband – an unusual arrangement that seems to have suited them all; he is the author of quite a few of the texts, alongside Pushkin, Lermontov and some less familiar figures. Sung here in Russian, the songs register as pleasing examples of salon music, though the relatively ordinary nature of the accompaniments deny them greatness. Bulgarian soprano Ina Kancheva gives a solid account of them, though her voice lacks an ideal range of colour. She receives constant support from pianist Ludmil Angelov, while mezzo Kamelia Kader and cellist Christo Tanev make occasional contributions.


George Hall