Tchaikovsky: Songs

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Joan Rodgers (sop)Roger Vignoles (pno)
Anyone who has heard the soprano Joan Rodgers only in her light soubrette roles, such as Susanna and Zerlina, may be surprised by this disc of brooding Tchaikovsky songs. But Rodgers has recently been exploring different emotional terrain and this superb collection shows how rapidly she is blossoming into a major artist. In Tchaikovsky’s songs a sense of Chekhovian gloom hangs heavy in the air: life has passed the poet by, and when past joys are recollected it is with the bitter regret that they are irrecoverable. Tackling songs that require her naturally sparkling tone to be weighed down with melancholy, Rodgers extends her expressive range, as well as her vocal compass, most impressively. The tone is darkly suggestive of sorrow, with occasional eruptions of frustrated passion. Not all is gloom and doom, however. There is a song about the joyous renewal of spring, and another light-hearted one about the revenge wreaked by a snubbed cuckoo. Roger Vignoles, one of the finest accompanists to be found today, matches the singer phrase for phrase, capturing the mood of each song as surely as Rodgers herself. This is a delightful set, thoroughly recommended to anyone susceptible to the pangs of Tchaikovskian passion or to first-rate Lieder singing. Barry Millington