Tchaikovsky: Songs, Vol. 1

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Songs, Vol. 1
PERFORMER: Ljuba Kazarnovskaya (soprano), Ljuba Orfenova (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554357
Like Conifer, which issued Tchaikovsky’s complete songs between 1996 and 1998, Naxos has opted to present its survey in an apparently random order. The 22 songs here (out of 109) are presented neither chronologically nor in the groups in which they were published; nor, wisely, in a scheme that uses the best and most familiar first. There’s not even an attempt at placing, say, the gypsy-themed songs together or grouping by poet, all of which makes for a somewhat dislocating programme.

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But in terms of performance, there’s much to take pleasure in. Ljuba Kazarnovskaya has a high, bright, fluid voice with a strong, penetrating top and a fondness for vibrato. She is a sincere actress, and in a song such as the early Pushkin setting ‘Pesnya Zemfiri’ (from the same narrative poem as Rachmaninoff’s Aleko), she handles the awkward spoken passage with aplomb. There’s very little to fault in either her or the pianist Ljuba Orfenova’s performance, but neither is there much that’s transporting. Claire Wrathall