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Pushkin Romances / Joan Rodgers, Malcolm Martineau


Release Date: 10/13/2009 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67773   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Mikhail GlinkaNikolai Rimsky-KorsakovNikolai MedtnerAnton Rubinstein,   ... 
Performer:  Malcolm MartineauJoan Rodgers
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A well-conceived program, admirably sung.

Here is another disc of Russian songs from Joan Rodgers, and what a fine disc it is!

In the classical Russian culture, Pushkin is Shakespeare. He is Cervantes. He is Goethe and Schiller in one. He is universally loved. So, understandably, many fine Russian composers have set his poetry to music - each one in his unique style, but each one with sincere devotion. The majority of presented composers, by the way, also based operas on his works. So, the program on this disc, besides the pure technical property of using only Pushkin's texts (OK, for some reason one poem is by his friend Delvig - yes, that one from Shostakovich's Fourteenth Symphony) has another unifying
Read more trait, on a higher level. This trait is the deep respect, love and care reflected in trying to set these gems in the best golden frames.

The poems themselves range from pure trifles and album leaves (like Adèle or The singer) to the heights of lyrical poetry (such as The hills of Georgia or My voice for you). Pushkin's verses are not flawless: being practically the first really grand-scale Russian poet, he could bathe in what was almost forbidden to later generations. There are clichés, but only because he invented them. The rhyming is often predictable, as nezhnyj almost surely leads to myatezhnyj, radost' to mladost', tyomnyj to tomnyj etc. But this simplicity is akin to the deceptive simplicity of Mozart's sonatas: a lot is said in few words.

Some of the sources are inevitably repeated: three poems have two settings each, and two poems are presented in three skins. Also, you'll hear verses you might know from "Onegin" and "Aleko". But the versions are so different, that what you get is practically a gallery of portraits of different composers, like a backward projection. What fun it is to hear side by side A boy and a girl by Dargomïzhsky and Shostakovich: the first quite a grand romance, the second so descriptive, you can almost restore the narrative from the music alone!

At least three of the romances, in my opinion, belong to the Hall of Fame of art-songs of all times and nations. These are Glinka's I remember the wonderful moment, Rachmaninov's Do not sing to me, and The fountain of Bakhchisaray by the little-known Vladimir Vlasov. Someone said once that the melody of I remember the wonderful moment was not composed by Glinka: it always existed in the ether, he just snatched it out. I think the same can be said about the other two songs. It is also a rare pleasure to hear romances by Rimsky-Korsakov, as if extracted from his operas; it shows how songful his operas are. And César Cui - where else can you find this elusive Fifth Element of the Mighty Five? Medtner, as usual, is way too serious and misses all Pushkin's humour in The rose; his Muse is probably not to everyone's taste; but The waltz is pretty much amazing. Lesser known Anton Rubinstein is well inside the Russian Romantic tradition, and I bet that out of the three versions of The Night ( "My voice for you") on this disc it will be his one that you'll remember the most. Although all the nuts and bolts that he uses look familiar, they are put together very well.

This is a generous recital: it's 73 minutes, with 31 songs! Yet it never becomes boring, which says a lot about the performers. I commend the wise ordering decision. The disc starts with Pushkin's younger friend Glinka, and goes more or less chronologically to mid-XX century. However, the monotony of style is broken by moving Medtner and Shostakovich in between earlier composers.

Joan Rodgers’ singing is magnificent. She has a beautiful voice, which is never thin or dry, and is equally powerful in all registers. I am rather tolerant to vibrato, but I think that even the biggest vibrato-bashers will agree that her control over it is perfect. When the music requires being loud, her voice does not lose its beauty, never becoming shrill or unpleasant. There is probably only one moment where I hear a strain in the voice, and this is in the last song, but this is really negligible. Her approach is not operatic, yet has all the dramatic intensity. Also, her Russian pronunciation is almost perfect: a little more work on the soft consonants, and nobody will discern her from a native speaker. All these bya, tya, sya ("uzh n iet li sop iernika zd ies'?") are not diphthongs! And she should check better the sources of the lyrics ( K okoshku prives', not privyoz! It changes all the meaning!) But all this can be forgotten when she sings with such devotion, such involvement, such beauty of tone.

Malcolm Martineau, as usual, is sensitive and supportive. He doesn't have to work extra hard here: most composers - except probably Medtner and Rachmaninov - provided light frames, not heavy tableaux. However, even this can be done well or poorly, and Martineau's frames are of purest gold. The piano never overpowers the voice. I think that it was deliberately a bit subdued, which suits well the intimate spirit of a song recital.

The accompanying booklet has full texts of all songs, in transliterated Russian and in good (though not 100% correct) English translation. Excellent liner-notes in English, French and German are by Andrew Huth. They tell about the poet, the composers and the historical circumstances of the song settings. The recording is clear and conveys the impression of the position of performers in space.

Summarizing, I can't think of a better way to present this program. A wonderful disc, indeed, for many happy returns.

-- Oleg Ledeniov, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Priznaniye (Confession) by Mikhail Glinka
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Length: 0 Minutes 55 Secs. 
2.
Adèle by Mikhail Glinka
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 44 Secs. 
3.
Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne (Do not sing to me, fair maiden) by Mikhail Glinka
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Length: 1 Minutes 4 Secs. 
4.
I Recall a Wonderful Moment by Mikhail Glinka
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Russia 
Length: 3 Minutes 17 Secs. 
5.
Ya zdes, Inezilya (Here I am, Iñesilla) by Mikhail Glinka
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
6.
Songs (4), Op. 42: no 3, The clouds begin to scatter by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; Russia 
Length: 3 Minutes 20 Secs. 
7.
Songs (5), Op. 51: no 2, Do not sing to me, o lovely one by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
8.
Songs (4), Op. 4: no 1, What is my name to thee? by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866; Russia 
Length: 1 Minutes 40 Secs. 
9.
Songs (4), Op. 3: no 4, On the hills of Georgia by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866; Russia 
Length: 1 Minutes 47 Secs. 
10.
Songs (4), Op. 7: no 1, My voice for thee is sweet and languid by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Russia 
Length: 1 Minutes 35 Secs. 
11.
To the poet, Op. 45: no 1, The echo by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Length: 1 Minutes 37 Secs. 
12.
Songs (4), Op. 27: no 3, Thou and you by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Length: 0 Minutes 54 Secs. 
13.
Poems (7), Op. 29: no 1, The Muse by Nikolai Medtner
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 3 Minutes 10 Secs. 
14.
Poems (7), Op. 29: no 6, The Rose by Nikolai Medtner
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
15.
Poems (6), Op. 36: no 3, When roses fade by Nikolai Medtner
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 57 Secs. 
16.
Poems (6), Op. 32: no 5, The Waltz by Nikolai Medtner
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 3 Minutes 1 Secs. 
17.
Songs (12), Op. 36: no 7, The Singer by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Length: 2 Minutes 30 Secs. 
18.
Night, Op. 44 no 1 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1860; Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 52 Secs. 
19.
Zemfira's Song by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1855-1860; Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 14 Secs. 
20.
Songs (12), Op. 60: no 4, The nightingale by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; Russia 
Length: 3 Minutes 3 Secs. 
21.
Night by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864/1868; Russia 
Length: 4 Minutes 28 Secs. 
22.
The magpie by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 14 Secs. 
23.
K druz'yam (To his friends) by Alexander Dargomizhsky
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Length: 2 Minutes 12 Secs. 
24.
Yunosha i deva (A girl and a boy) by Alexander Dargomizhsky
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841-1842; Russia 
Length: 1 Minutes 6 Secs. 
25.
Songs (4), Op. 46: no 2, A youth bitterly sobbing by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; USSR 
Length: 1 Minutes 37 Secs. 
26.
Songs (14), Op. 34: no 1, The muse by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Joan Rodgers (Soprano), Malcolm Martineau (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1912; Russia 
Length: 4 Minutes 32 Secs. 
27.
Songs (6), Op. 4: no 4, Sing not to me, beautiful maiden by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; Russia 
Length: 4 Minutes 42 Secs. 
28.
Poems (25) by Pushkin, Op. 57: no 17, La statue de Tsarskoïe Selo by César Cui
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Russia 
Length: 1 Minutes 4 Secs. 
29.
Poems (25) by Pushkin, Op. 57: no 11, Thou and you by César Cui
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Russia 
Length: 0 Minutes 56 Secs. 
30.
Zhelaniye (Desire), Op. 57/25 by César Cui
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Russia 
Length: 1 Minutes 52 Secs. 
31.
Fontanu Bakhchisarayskovo dvortsa (The fountain in the courtyard of Bakhchisaray) by Vladimir Vlasov
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Joan Rodgers (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Length: 3 Minutes 29 Secs. 

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