Cui, Dargomizhsky, Glinka, Medtner, Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rubinstein, Shostakovich & Vlasov, Tchaikovsky: Works by Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Medtner, Rubinstein, Musorgsky, Cui, Tchaikovsky, Dargomizhsky, Shostakovich & Vlasov

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cui,Dargomizhsky,Glinka,Medtner,Musorgsky,Rimsky-Korsakov,Rubinstein,Shostakovich & Vlasov,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Works by Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Medtner, Rubinstein, Musorgsky, Cui, Tchaikovsky, Dargomizhsky, Shostakovich & Vlasov
PERFORMER: Joan Rodgers (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67773

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Joan Rodgers’s command over the Russian language and diverse Russian musical styles has been long and widely admired. The latest of her song-recital discs focuses on the poetry of Pushkin, an enticement – albeit in varying degrees of intensity – for every significant composer of Russian song up to and including Prokofiev (here absent) and Shostakovich.

Not the first such Pushkin-centred enterprise, this one proves of exceptional value and appeal. Rarities by Rubinstein, Medtner, Cui and the little-known Vladimir Vlasov rub shoulders with more familiar items by Glinka, Musorgsky and Rachmaninov. Short songs are juxtaposed with longer ones, delicate watercolours with oil paintings. Comparisons between different settings of the same poem add equally to the programme’s aesthetic interest and immediate attractiveness.

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To the gentlest songs, such as those by Dargomizhsky and Rimsky-Korsakov (the beautiful ‘Line of Flying Clouds’ and ‘The Hills of Georgia’), Rodgers brings as much gracefulness and subtlety as ever, and timbre as exquisitely fragrant and fine-grained. A loss of freshness can now be detected in high-lying phrases forcefully attacked, which tend to take on impurity, even blowziness. But any such defects are comprehensively outweighed by Rogers’s abundance of musicianly virtues and those of Malcolm Martineau, her unfailingly alert and sympathetic pianist. Max Loppert