It seems hard to believe, as the booklet claims, that most of these songs have never been released on CD until now: they're gorgeous. Rubinstein was the cosmopolitan Russian composer of the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the nemesis of the nationalistic Mighty Handful. But many of the texts he sets here are classics of Russian poetry, by Pushkin and Lermontov, and his settings have the limpid, seemingly perfect naturalness that characterizes the poems themselves. Sample the Pushkin duo The Cloud, Op. 48 (track 6), or Lermontov's Angel, Op. 48 (track 7), to hear both the superb vocalists, or the darker Song ("A crow flies..."), Op. 78, reminisicent of the grim old English folk song Three Ravens. The music firmly fits within the Schumann harmonic world, but there is something indubitably Russian about it. Maybe that impression is due to the awe-inspiring voice of mezzo soprano Mila Shkirtil, whose voice has that peculiar combination of richness and darkness that only Russians seem to be able to manage. Baritone Mikhail Lukonin is scarcely less effective, singing several songs that were associated with the great Russian bass Chaliapin; he does not try to imitate Chaliapin, but has his own warm style. The program covers many years of Rubinstein's career, ending with a Ballad of 1891 to a text by Turgenev, and it never flags artistically. These songs are nothing short of lost masterpieces, and they're superbly performed here. The booklet is in Russian and English; song texts are in transliterated Russian -- not the original Cyrillic -- and English translation.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Serbian Songs (10) for voice & piano with cello ad lib. (from melodies by Vuka Karadzhich), Op. 105|
Die Turteltaube und der Wanderer ("Sprich, warum sitzest du dort"), song for 2 voices & piano, Op. 48/10