British soprano Joan Rodgers has a broad repertoire ranging from Handel and Mozart to Britten, but she has made something of a specialty of Romantic and post-Romantic Russian art song and has recorded discs of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, as well as a collection by a variety of Russian composers. Here she gathers a diverse assortment of songs that are settings of poetry by Alexander Pushkin. Rodgers' voice is not large; it has a delicacy, almost fragility, that's particularly well suited to this repertoire of mostly delicate, sophisticated songs. She is utterly secure, with a gleaming tone that's consistent throughout her range, and an irreproachable technique, and these go a long way toward compensating for the lack of a warmer, more robust sound. As an interpreter, she gets right at the core of these songs and never fails to effectively put them across. Her colorful shadings conjure up an impressively wide emotional range, which is essential for a collection this diverse. Most of the songs here don't have a distinctive character that makes them immediately identifiable as Russian. The seven songs by Rimsky-Korsakov stand out for their musical variety and generous lyricism; these are high-profile pieces that deserve the attention of singers looking for material outside the standard repertoire that have substance and that show off the voice. Mussorgsky's The Magpie, which sounds rooted in Russian folk song, puts Rodgers' gift for humor on display, as well as her affinity for idiomatically Russian material. The two Rachmaninov songs are deeply felt and notable for the expansiveness of their lyrical passion, and the three brief songs by Cui are especially melodically lovely. Also memorable is the evocative To the fountain of the Bakhchisaray, by the most obscure composer on the disc, Vladimir Vlasov. Malcolm Martineau's sensitive and expressive accompaniment is a perfect match for Rodgers' singing. The sound is present and clean, with good balance.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
My voice for thee is sweet and languid (Moy golos dyla tebya i laskovïy), song for voice & piano, Op. 7/1
|Romances (4) on Poems by Pushkin, songs for voice and piano, Op. 46 (arr for harp & strings as Op 46a)|