ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov Songs
WORKS: Complete Songs
PERFORMER: Evelina Dobraceva, Ekaterina Siurina (sopranos), Justina Gringyte (mezzo-soprano), Daniil Shtoda (tenor), Andrei Bondarenko, Rodion Pogossov (baritone), Alexander Vinogradov (bass); Iain Burnside (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DCD34127
Is there a more astonishing, nourishing body of songs after the Hugo Wolf era than Sergey Rachmaninov’s? As pianist and mastermind Iain Burnside writes in his eloquent notes, we think of Rachmaninov as a musical conservative, and yet his music shows such as personal development, from Op. 4’s dark, scalic inflections modelled on the Tchaikovsky romance to the unresolved chord at the end of Op. 38. Alas, the composer wrote no more songs after leaving Russia in 1918, but the journey is already rich, rare and varied.
The range is made all the more striking by Iain Burnside’s seven phenomenal young singers from Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania. I was quickly won over by Andrei Bondarenko’s burnished baritone sound and sensitivity, peaking in Op. 14 No. 9’s exquisite dialogue between voice and enigmatic piano thirds (‘She is as beautiful as midday’). But the other singers here surprise, too. Daniil Shtoda begins strenuously with Op. 4 No. 6, but is poetry incarnate in The Little Island and in the numinous setting of Pushkin’s The Muse which opens the consummate Op. 34 set.
The two sopranos are top-note perfect: Ekaterina Siurina, who shows surprising grit in the final sequence composed for the great Nina Koshetz, and the more heroic Evelina Dobraceva. At times, the heavier-weight voices of mezzo Justina Gringyte and bass, Alexander Vinogradov, are too closely recorded for comfort, with the piano slightly behind – but Burnside remains a firm, clear, companion throughout. The complete Medtner next, please.