Tchaikovsky: Complete Songs, Vol. 4

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: Complete Songs, Vol. 4
PERFORMER: Nina Rautio (soprano), Sergei Leiferkus (baritone),Semion Skigin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51269 2
In his review of Vol. I of Conifer’s complete Tchaikovsky song survey (December 1996), the late Arthur Jacobs lamented the lack of a scheme: the songs run neither chronologically, nor grouped by poet or other discernible theme. This was all very well for a first album, but three lots of cherry-picking mean that only a few of the songs left for this disc count among Tchaikovsky’s most inspiring.

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Still, Leiferkus is always worth hearing, though he sings only seven out of the 22 songs here. His ability to project character and narrative make him a formidable interpreter of romansi, though there are times when his sheer attack threatens to overpower not just the pianist (Semion Skigin sounding rather reticent) but the song itself, a problem aggravated by a balance that strongly favours the voice.

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Nina Rautio may be a compelling presence on the opera stage, but she seems oddly adrift here, her huge, rather harsh soprano, with its penetrating, squally top, too forceful when exposed by sound as unforgiving as this. Claire Wrathall