Shostakovich: Song cycles

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Song cycles
PERFORMER: Vladimir Kasatschuk (tenor), Anatoly Kotscherga, Anatoly Babykin (bass); Cologne RSO/ Michail Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: 10 777
Given the valedictory themes of late Shostakovich, it’s interesting to find similar subjects of love and mortality in his Six Romances, Op. 21. The poems are Japanese; the music, written in 1932, soon after the Third Symphony, recalls a contemporary work, Britten’s early Quatre chansons françaises.

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In fact, as this collection implies, Shostakovich’s way with words changed little over the years, for all his stylistic detours. In the late Suite on Poems by Michelangelo Buonarroti, recitative and arioso are the chief vehicles of declamation in a very late score whose gravitas marks it as both major and unduly neglected. Like Symphony No. 15, it has its enigmas, including the last song, set to a perky march tune originally written when the composer was only nine.

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The soloists on this disc sound ideally Slavic, even down to tenor Vladimir Kasatschuk’s wobbly intonation in the first of the Three Pushkin Romances. A theme from this song is quoted in the Fifth Symphony’s finale, where the mood matches the song’s title: ‘Regeneration’. Nicholas Williams