The Tatar-born, Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, seemingly named with an operatic career in mind, has emerged as a promising, rising star in the mid-2010s, and she already had a strong record of top-level performances under her belt when this, her debut album, appeared in 2017. Garifullina studied in Vienna with Anna Moffo's teacher and has said she admired Moffo's way with Russian music. There's a bit of a resemblance, and in the center of the program, consisting of Russian operatic arias and songs arranged for orchestra, Garifullina is very strong indeed. In the Rachmaninov Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14, she will hold the attention even of those who have heard this work sung by countless sopranos. The program inclines toward Eastern influences, apparently in recognition of Garifullina's background, and this works well: she has a lyric voice with a hint of something deeper and more melancholy, and the results are often quite affecting. Sample the "Song of India" from Rimsky-Korsakov's Sadko (track 3), not that common a work in the West, for a taste of the creamy and just slightly exotic delights on offer here. Around the margins there are a few missteps. The two French arias at the beginning have the whiff of the conservatory about them, and the final Midnight in Moscow, inexplicably accompanied by a sampled balalaika recording of the early 1960s, does not make a satisfying conclusion. The traditional Tatar song Allüki (track 7) might have been profitably presented in a simpler guise. But there is no faking the genuine vocal beauty here, and this is a vocal beauty with something unusual to offer. Garifullina seems comfortable with the accompaniment of the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien under Cornelius Meister; Vienna is the city where she has spent much of her professional life. If Aida Garifullina comes to a town near you, make it your business to see her!
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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