The Russian solo song is an area overlooked by the average music lover,
not deliberately one might add. If you now clutch for a meaningful response,
refrain from Volga boatmen. These two CDs explore and present over forty
songs, none obviously out of place in an anthology of known and little known
Vassily Savenko's bass-baritone voice commands a useful range, the
outer limits of which bring nothing but the same sonorous tone and clear
definition. Alexander Blok at the piano treats simplicity of texture and
rapid torrents of Russian drama with equanimity. Some accompanists manage
to make both sound unnatural, but here there's artistry and mastery.
There are several songs in this collection that noticeably equate the
subtle balance between words and music as to take the experience into our
deeper self: Rachmaninov's Do not sing, my beauty [listen
-- CD2 track 16, 2:10-3:10] and Glinka's Ah, the sweetness of
being beside you are two such settings. I feel the gentleness
that does not immediately spring to mind with Russian music, although a
longing akin to sadness threads through the Russian psyche with a persistence
that suggests an embedded racial characteristic.
Listening to all the songs -- at this moment playing Borodin's For
the shores of your far homeland with its immense longing for what appears
unattainable -- a continuous vein of thoughtfulness mingles, whether loud
and assertive or softly meditative. Mussorgsky's splendid Song of
the Flea mocks and laughs, but....?
This two-record anthology initially aroused my curiosity for its wealth
of little-known songs. Now with several hours of increasingly focussed listening
behind me, I have gained a new perspective of some of the best in Russian
song -- not from the raw and raucous moments, but the predominance of supreme
sensitivity and sadness.
Copyright © 6 December 2000
Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK
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