POWER PLAY: Russian Arias for Bass • Ildar Abdrazakov (bs); Constantine Orbelian, cond; Kaunas St Ch & SO • DELOS 3456 (66:58 Text and Translation)
RACHMANINOFF Aleko: All the camp is asleep. GLINKA Ruslan and Ludmila: Farlaf’s Rondo; Oh field, field! A Life for the Czar: Read more class="ARIAL12i">They suspect the truth. BORODIN Prince Igor: There’s no sleep, no repose. MUSSORGSKY Boris Godunov: Coronation Scene; In the town of Kazan. RUBINSTEIN The Demon: In the ocean of the sky. TCHAIKOVSKY Evgeny Onegin: Love has nothing to do with age. Iolanthe: Oh Lord, have pity on me! PROKOFIEV War and Peace: Majestic, flashing in the sunshine. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Sadko: Song of the Viking Guest
The back cover of the CD booklet here says: “More often than not, Russian operas are about the power of sound, a ringing tone that reaches from Vladivostok to Moscow.” To which I say: Poppycock. The power of Russian opera is almost always in its darkness of interpretation, the suffering of the Russian people as interpreted by their greatest singers, among whom were Chaliapin, Nezhdanova, Lemeshev, Reizen, Arkhipova, Atlantov, Milishkina, and Nesterenko. The vocal power that accompanied some (but not all) of these singers was incidental, or at least secondary to their interpretations.
The reason I bring this up is that, from reading various descriptions online from listeners who have heard him in person, Ildar Abdrazakhov (also known affectionately in some circles as “Mr. Borodina”) does not have a particularly large bass voice, at least not when compared to Chaliapin or Reizen, but he doesn’t have to because he is, and has been for more than a decade, one of the greatest singing-actors in the inseparable hyphenated sense of the term.
There are three things to note about Abdrazakhov, one of which I did not know. First, he is only 37 years old! I point this out because I know I’ve been listening to him for more than a decade, and I just assumed he was over 30 when I first heard him, so mature, seasoned, and assured were his interpretations. The other two, which are evident from this recording, are that his voice has deepened and become richer than it was previously, and that with the expansion of his range has come both an expansion of repertoire to some of the hallowed bass roles of Russian opera and—something which I expected—a completely individual way of singing them. Listen, for instance, to the unusual yet entirely valid way he sings “Farlaf’s Rondo” from Ruslan and Ludmila. It is, for once, entirely different from Chaliapin’s interpretation, which even such great artists as Mark Reizen and the Bulgarian Boris Christoff aped phrase-for-phrase. Then listen to his extraordinarily sensitive reading of “Oh field, field! Who has strewn the bones across you?” from the same opera and marvel at his ability at word-painting. Oh yes, this is a great and major artist; but if I may be permitted one note of warning, it is that his tone here occasionally spreads at full volume where a few years ago it was still rock solid. I can only hope that this is an anomaly captured by the microphone here and not a sign of “bass wobble” to come—he’s too young for that. Hopefully, he will notice the slight spread in his tone and take steps to correct it.
Before I go further in describing this marvelous disc, I must pause and give praise and thanks for the superb conducting of Constantine Orbelian. He is so magnificent in matching the singer nuance-for-nuance that he set a very high standard in Russian opera conducting. This is as great as listening to Igor Markevitch or Valery Gergiev conduct Russian opera: I can give no higher praise.
In the aria from Prince Igor, Abdrazakhov pushes his interpretive powers to the max, occasionally sacrificing beautiful tone for additional angst. This, too, is fine; he does no damage to the voice by doing so, and he shows us that presenting a character is more important to him than beautiful sound in and of itself. Moreover, he does all this without sacrificing the musical line or distorting the notes, an object lesson in itself. He also brings out the energy of Mussorgsky’s famous “Town of Kazan” aria without hamming it up, lightening the voice for some passages and accenting the words without exaggerating the rhythms. Abdrazakhov employs the kind of word-painting one expects from the best Lieder singers, and this pays dividends in aria after aria, bringing even such normally trite material as Tchaikovsky’s Iolanthe aria or the scene from Prokofiev’s War and Peace to life. This kind of singing trumps “vocal power” any day of the week.
Needless to say, he also has his own way of doing the “Song of the Viking Guest” from Sadko (another Chaliapin chestnut) and the Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov. No matter where you test Abdrazakhov in this recital, you touch the robe of genius. I cannot say enough good things about this disc.
Prince Igor: No sleep, no rest "Igor's Aria"by Alexander Borodin Performer:
Ildar Abdrazakov (Bass)
Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1869-1887; Russia
Sadko: no 3, Song of the Viking Guestby Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Performer:
Ildar Abdrazakov (Bass)
Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1894-1896; Russia
Iolanta, Op. 69: King Rene's Arioso: Gospod' moi, esli greshen ia
Zhizn' za tsarya (A Life for the Tsar), Op. 4: Act IV: Aria: Chuyut pravdu!
Voyna i mir (War and Peace), Op. 91: Scene 10: Velichavaya v solnechnykh luchakh
Sadko: Song of the Viking Guest
Boris Godunov: Prologue: Coronation Scene
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Outstanding collection of Arias for BassMay 13, 2014By Warren Harris See All My Reviews"This disc consists of 12 different arias for bass -- and not just normal bass, but powerful and sensitive bass! Mr. Abdrazakov delivers all of the power and sensitivity expected of a truly captivating Russian aria performance, and it is a treat to experience. Particularly noteworthy are the arias from Ruslan & Ludmila, Borodins Prince Igor, as well as Tchaikovskys Eugene Onegin. But the Viking Song from Rimsky-Korsakovs Sadko is just spell-binding. The orchestra sounds *fantastic*, and Mr. Abdrazakov has the raw power and grace to deliver every nuance in captivating fashion. This disc is worth owning just for this track. The liner notes give interesting background material on Mr. Abdrazakov as well as Conductor Constantine Orbelian (who does an absolutely fabulous job with a very talented Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra), and also provide Russian to English translations of each work. If you like Russian Opera, then this is definitely a recording that you need to have in your collection. And if you dont know whether you do or not, get it anyway and listen to the tracks I indicated above. You wont be sorry."Report Abuse
Becoming a power playerFebruary 16, 2014By Jim D. See All My Reviews"There are not a lot of solo recitals on record by basses, so this debut disc by one of the up-and-comers is especially welcome. Ildar Abdrazakov has been singing at the Metropolitan Opera and other major houses for ten years already, in roles ranging from the Italian bel canto through the twentieth century stuff; here he turns his talent to his own Russian music. The voice still sounds more like a baritone, with a nice bright top--tossing off high notes to end the two RUSSLAN arias--and less splendid at the bottom. Not yet 40, he will grow into these roles even more. Meanwhile, he displays excellent breath control and dynamic range from soft asides through ringing and wobble-free fortes. The chorus joins in to cap the album with the Coronation Scene from BORIS GODUNOV. (Alas, the church bells are dreadfully thin, although the orchestra otherwise provides fine support.) Much of the repertoire here will be unfamiliar to the casual opera listener, but texts and translations are included."Report Abuse