Tchaikovsky: None But The Lonely Heart; Amid the Din of the Ball

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: None But The Lonely Heart; Amid the Din of the Ball
PERFORMER: Sergei Leiferkus (batritone), Semion Skigin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51266 2
There is no getting away from it. ‘Mne grustno! Mne grustno kak i prezhde!’ – ‘I am sad! I am sad, as I was before!’. Tchaikovsky’s melancholy mood dominates this hour’s selection, only the last of these 19 songs (‘Don Juan’s Serenade’) being in fast tempo. Before that we have the memorable pathos of ‘None but the Lonely Heart’ and another equally fine song, ‘Amid the Din of the Ball’; but much else is unmemorably caught in other songs of love lost and regretted. This is labelled as the first volume of a complete issue of Tchaikovsky’s songs, but gives no indication of how many CDs are to come, nor of what decided the order of performance, which is not chronological, nor grouped by poets.

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Only the most subtle and sensitive singing could make such a formula into a satisfactory whole, but here Leiferkus allows his strongly-trained vocal instrument to go too often into automatic pilot. Ascending notes get louder, lower notes softer. Particular notes carry a tone-colouring fixed by the vocal mechanism. Words that should have small weight (‘kak more’ – ‘like the sea’) are overburdened. Skigin’s piano accompaniment also falls occasionally into routine. Arthur Jacobs