Notes and Editorial Reviews
Although it was never completed, Shostakovich's odd little opera, based on a Gogol one-act play and written just after his Symphony No. 7, is well worth a listen. (Rozhdestvensky's recording differs slightly--the Melodiya version includes several bars from the piano score that were absent from the full score.) The composer's fans will be delighted to find many of his familiar tricks among the pages of this work: a shrill piccolo, trademark rhythmic figures (the ever-present two eighths followed by a quarter note), a spiky piano, lots of string pizzicatos, and on and on. In many ways, the orchestral parts are more fully realized than those of the vocalists, which tend more toward declamatory recitatives than to outpourings of song. (To his
credit, conductor Andrei Tchistiakov doesn't let a single detail escape in his reading.)
Singing The Gamblers demands almost more in the way of acting than of vocal skill. Nikolai Kurpe's Ikharev is a particularly strong suit in this regard; his scheming character (who eventually is out-schemed by his fellow gamblers) is a hysterical, anxious mess, unless he is addressing either his manservant Gavriushka or Alexei, the waiter at the inn where he is staying. In these instances he assumes a blustering, totally transparent pompousness: listen to him interrogating Alexei, at the end hollering, "You're lying!" (track 1, 3:04). The occasional thinness of his tenor is, I think, less a flaw in his voice than it is an aspect of his characterization of Ikharev. The other gamblers are gleefully oleaginous: there's a wonderful moment that starts around 4:40, lasting till about 5:44 or so in track 3, in which two of the gamblers, Krughel (Alexander Arkhipov) and Utyeshitelny (Nikolai Rechetniak) argue about, of all things, the importance of sincerity.
As this is a studio recording from 1995, the sound is better than on other recordings from Le Chant du Monde's Shostakovich series, but it still is rather hollow, and the orchestra is too muffled, especially considering its primacy in this score. The biggest disappointment here is the text that's included: there's no Russian libretto, just French and English translations.
--Anastasia Tsioulcas, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
The Gamblers, Op 63b by Dmitri Shostakovich
Nikolay Kurpe (Tenor),
Nikolai Reshetnijak (Baritone),
Alexander Arkhipov (Tenor),
Mikhail Krutikov (Bass),
Viacheslav Pochapsky (Bass Baritone),
Pyotr Gluboky (Bass)
Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1941-1942; Russia
Date of Recording: 03/1995
Venue: Mosfilm Studios, Moscow, Russia
Length: 47 Minutes 35 Secs.
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