This is singing of Russian song at its finest, intense yet personal, eloquent but never straying into the operatic.
Only a third of the songs on this fourth volume of Conifer's complete Tchaikovsky (previous issues were reviewed in 8/96 and 1/97) are sung by Leiferkus, but they include some of the finest, and the Finest performances. There is a superb irony in his singing of As they reiterated, "Fool!", as he curls his voice around the phrases and hardens his tone into a snarl for the reproach to the drunkard; yet the cavernous pain in one of Tchaikovsky's strangest songs, In dark Hell, matches without any emotional distancing the poem's grim mood. With Exploit he controls the growth of tone towards the climaxRead more superbly, then dropping to a hushed, exhausted quality for the quiet final verse.
This is singing of Russian song at its finest, intense yet personal, eloquent but never straying into the operatic. Nina Rautio is not so sure-footed. At her best, she can respond with grace and a fresh sense of colour, as with the pretty Pimpinella. In Sleep she pays close attention to the words, which hold the key (as so often with Tchaikovsky) to phrasing that can be elusive. But when less at ease with a song, she can take refuge in operatic declamation of a kind that loses the idiom, as with Softly the spirit, or snatch at the phrasing, as with Thy radi ant image. The setting of Mignon's Kennst du das Land (in Tyutchev's translation) is more successfully handled, not least because of the beautiful playing ofSemion Skigin. He has the idiom of these songs in his veins, and the skill to match his singers and respond to the best in them. There is no finer Russian song pianist performing today.
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