Sviridov

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COMPOSERS: Georgy Sviridov
LABELS: Delos
ALBUM TITLE: Sviridov
WORKS: Russia Cast Adrift (arr. Stetsyuk)
PERFORMER: Dmitri Hvorostvosky (baritone); St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra; Style of Five Ensemble / Constantine Orbelian
CATALOGUE NO: DE 1631

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Georgy Sviridov is one of Russia’s most popular composers and was Shostakovich’s favoured pupil, but he still requires some introduction to Western audiences. This is because he was heavily identified with the corrupt Soviet musical machine, churning out bloated oratorios such as The Decembrists (1955). But he was no mere political thug like the vile Tikhon Khrennikov, and his outward sycophancy freed him to indulge in more personal works, notably his exceptionally beautiful songs – often setting major Russian poets like Pushkin and Blok, and including blacklisted figures like the charismatic, tragic Sergei Yesenin.

The title sounds political, but the songs are far more personal – the anguish of a young man at odds with the revolutionary-era world, and finding expression in nature. Yesenin’s deceptively plain language and imagery are sensitively echoed in Sviridov’s austere, intensely lyrical vocal lines, with constant echoes of religious chant. The composer’s friend Dmitri Hvorostovsky, with his darkly brooding, anguished tones and exceptionally clear diction, is an ideal interpreter, who recorded the piano original in 1997. Evgeny Stetsyuk’s orchestration, including folk instruments, is perhaps more melodramatic than Sviridov’s intended version would have been, sometimes betraying its keyboard origins, but Constantine Orbelian delivers it with considerable power. An interesting insight into the man behind the apparatchik.

Michael Scott Rohan

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