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Record Box

The Russian Psyche

Sadness in song, with BASIL RAMSEY


Hyperion    CDA67105
Hyperion    CDA67205

Russian Images - 1 (c) 2000 Hyperion Records Ltd.

 

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 composers.

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....?

Russian Images - 2 (c) 2000 Hyperion Records Ltd.

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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CD INFORMATION - RUSSIAN IMAGES 1

PURCHASE RUSSIAN IMAGES 1 FROM AMAZON

PURCHASE RUSSIAN IMAGES 1 FROM CROTCHET

CD INFORMATION - RUSSIAN IMAGES 2

PURCHASE RUSSIAN IMAGES 2 FROM AMAZON

PURCHASE RUSSIAN IMAGES 2 FROM CROTCHET

 

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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Wednesday series of shorter CD reviews