Rachmaninov: Songs

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Nina Rautio (soprano) Semion Skigin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51276 2
Record companies are just beginning to recognise the incredible richness of Russian song, but there are still not enough discs for many direct comparisons to be made. Here, though, we have two Russian prima donnas, both possessed of big sopranos that go all the way down to a rich mezzo register, overlapping in at least a few items. Gorchakova has the more varied programme in her favour, but even in the Rachmaninov songs she wins, thanks to better sense of style and a more sumptuous instrument.

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Rautio’s performances are spoilt by a tendency to squall at the top, blunt phrasing and a somewhat staid accompanist. In the beautiful ‘Oh do not sing to me’, neither singer nor pianist successfully captures the mystery; elsewhere there’s no doubting her depth of feeling, but the voice lacks expressive colour. It’s a soprano better suited to big dramatic statements than intimate songs.

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Gorchakova scales down her voice to float the melancholy lines of this music, and perhaps the most deeply felt performances here are of the Rachmaninov group. Her Tchaikovsky is slightly bland, but with rarely recorded yet marvellous songs by Dargomïzhsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, and a more characterful pianist, her disc is something special. John Allison