Shostakovich: Songs, Vol. 2: 1965-74: Vocal Cycles of the Last Years

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Delos
WORKS: Songs, Vol. 2: 1965-74: Vocal Cycles of the Last Years
PERFORMER: Victoria Evtodieva (soprano), Lyubov Sokolova (mezzo-soprano), Fyodor Kuznetsov (bass), Yuri Serov (piano), Lidia Kovalenko (violin), Irina Molokina (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: DE 3307
Given the increasingly precarious state of his health during the last ten years of his life, one might have expected most of the songs Shostakovich composed at this time to have been exclusively morbid or preoccupied with death. But hearing these vocal cycles in chronological sequence of composition, as presented here, makes one realise what an amazing range of expression and variety of moods the composer could muster, often with the simplest of musical means.

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In fact the programme is cleverly arranged so that the bitingly vicious satire of the Krokodil and Lebyadkin settings act as exactly the necessary contrasting framework for the more profound and contemplative Blok and Tsvetayeva cycles. Needless to say, all the performers deliver the music with conviction, none more so than Lyubov Sokolova, whose sensitive artistry and faultless rhythmic control brings a wealth of nuance and colour to the Tsvetayeva cycle. There are also some poignant moments in the Blok cycle, though it’s a pity that the opening of the eerie setting of ‘The City Sleeps’ is marred by some untidy shifts from the cello. Finally, Fyodor Kuznetsov, supported by an equally manic Yuri Serov, exploits every twist and turn in the bizarre experiences of Dostoyevsky’s Captain Lebyadkin – a larger-than-life interpretation that once more confirms Shostakovich’s status as the true heir to Mussorgsky. Erik Levi