PERFORMER: Joan Rodgers (soprano), Maria Popescu (mezzo-soprano), Alexandre Naoumenko (tenor), Sergei Leiferkus (baritone), Howard Shelley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9405 DDD
This makes an attractive first instalment of a projected three-CD set of Rachmaninov’s songs – unless you bought Leiferkus’s recent solo Rachmaninov disc (Chandos CHAN 9374, reviewed in October 1995). All Leiferkus’s 11 contributions to this latest disc are simply transfers from the old, and four of his other songs on that disc reappear here in other voices. That leaves only 17 ‘new’ songs out of 32.
In its own right, the variety of voices enhances this unfolding of Rachmaninov’s lyric genius. The young Russian tenor Naoumenko is a real find: an occasional strain at the top is outweighed by the emotive power of his long-breathed and passionate phrases. Like Leiferkus he has a superb clarity in delivering the words. Joan Rodgers and Maria Popescu (British and Canadian respectively) project the Russian consonants less strongly, but they take true possession of text and music. Howard Shelley excels at the piano, relishing textures of accompaniment (and postludes) sometimes not unworthy of Rachmaninov’s concertos. Arthur Jacobs