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From the initial Serenade, Shtoda's full-throated, rather Italianite, sound impresses, as does the rhythmic impulse provided by Larissa Gergieva (yes -- his sister! -- previously a great accompanist to an Olga Borodina recital on Philips) in accompaniment. There is no shortage of passion from the tenor in The Nightingale -- one of many Pushkin settings on the disc [listen -- track 2, 2:38-3:25].

That favourite recital encore, Again, as before, Alone is well integrated into the selection -- there is no special pleading for its mastery but Shtoda manages to inflect the single word 'Drug' ('My Friend' or 'Dearest') with a wealth of tender longing.

There is a bit more animation in I should like in a Single Word to take the listener outside of the world of the relentlessly maudlin. Before the end of the first (Tchaikovsky) part of the disc, Shtoda shows how he can control a long-lingered crescendo (Why?) and the unrestrained paean of Whether Day Reigns [listen -- track 9, 1:41-2.22].

The songs of Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Cui ought to be what makes this disc so valuable -- rarely heard as they are. Undoubtedly, Shtoda seems to serve them well. Those of Balakirev are simpler stuff though there is a lovely Iberian frisson -- with plenty of sun-burnished turns in the Spanish Song. The Rimsky-Korsakov songs delight with unexpected melodic and harmonic landings though, occasionally, the sheer weight of the piano accompaniment becomes a touch wearing -- down, I think, to the composer more than the performer.

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Copyright © 6 July 2003 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, UK


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