Tchaikovsky: Songs

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Olga Borodina (mezzo-soprano) Larissa Gergieva (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 442 013-2 DDD
Even by the remarkable standards set by her contemporaries at the Kirov, this young Russian mezzo has a voice of extraordinary beauty. What really sets her apart, however, is her expressiveness.

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The atmosphere of Tchaikovsky’s songs may be predominantly introspective and melancholic, but Borodina suffuses each with a distinct mood, so there is no danger of monotony. Her shading and interpretative skills render each one slightly different, at times impassioned (‘My protector, my angel, my friend’), uncomprehending (‘Why?’) and finally harrowing (‘Once again, alone’, a song she begins in an anguished, spectral pianissimo which grows to a passionate crescendo before falling away as softly as it starts).

But the mood is sometimes brighter: the folk-like ‘Gypsy Girl’s Song’, with its almost Spanish rhythm; the enchanting ‘Serenade’; or the rapturous ‘The sun has slipped from sight’ (‘I am madly happy… my joy is infinite’) provide opportunities for Borodina to demonstrate her formidable range as both singer and actress. Her accompanist, Larissa Gergieva, is also exemplary: always supportive, but playing far more than a subsidiary part.

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One criticism: the accompanying booklet has translations in English, German, French and Italian, but no Russian texts – not even transliterated ones. Borodina’s diction may be excellent, but it would be useful to have the words. Claire Wrathall