Rachmaninov: Russia Cast Adrift

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Russia Cast Adrift
PERFORMER: Joan Rodgers (soprano), Maria Popescu (mezzo-soprano), Alexandre Naoumenko (tenor), Sergei Leiferkus (bass), Howard Shelley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9451 DDD
If Georgy Sviridov (b1915) chafed under the musical restrictions of the Soviet regime, he never said so. One of his preferred media has been solo song, where official pressure was not at its heaviest. A cycle of 12 songs, Russia Cast Adrift, proves him a composer of individuality and strength, some striking chordal formations bursting out of an old-fashioned style. The texts – with some enigmatic religious references – are by Yesenin, a notable poet who committed suicide in 1925. Hvorostovsky, excellently partnered by Mikhail Arkadiev at the piano, gives a fine-grained delivery with exceptional command of pianissimo. Nine Rachmaninov songs reap no less artistry in performance, but a few more could easily have been added to augment the total timing.

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No complaints of short span attend the latest Chandos disc, the second of three presenting all Rachmaninov’s songs in chronological order and ‘sung in the original voices’ (though in one case, oddly, a mezzo-soprano sings a man’s farewell). Often the most characteristic and emotionally attractive aspects of the composer’s style are touched: those who relish the piano concertos will surely not resist ‘Zdes’ khorosho’ (‘How peaceful here’). With the same admirable singers and pianist as in Vol. 1 (reviewed in April), the contrasted vocal registers enhance the sequence. Arthur Jacobs