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The Art Of Oda Slobodskaya - The Decca & Rimington Van Wyck Recordings 1938-1961

Slobodskaya,Oda
Release Date: 08/02/2011 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4803524   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei TaneyevPeter Ilyich TchaikovskyNikolai N. TcherepninSergei Rachmaninov,   ... 
Performer:  Oda SlobodskayaIvor Newton
Conductor:  Anatole Fistoulari
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



THE ART OF ODA SLOBODSKAYA Oda Slobodskaya (sop); Ivor Newton (pn); Anatole Fistoulari, cond; London SO DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 3524 (2 CDs: 113:02)


Songs and arias by: TANEYEV, TCHAIKOVSKY, N. TCHEREPNIN, RACHMANINOFF, CUI, ANON, GRECHANINOV, BALAKIREV, PROKOFIEV, STRAVINSKY, BLANTER, KABALEVSKY, SHOSTAKOVICH


Oda Slobodskaya (1888–1970) was trained at the St. Petersburg Conservatory by Natalia Iretskaya, herself a “grandchild pupil” of the great vocal Read more pedagogue Manuel Garcia. The much-heralded start of her career at the Mariinsky Theatre was sidelined by the Russian Revolution. Fleeing west, her exacting standards and strong pride didn’t provide much consolation when she discovered that being a great interpreter of Russian opera and art songs had little purchase overseas. That she didn’t like managers and did a poor job of it herself hardly helped matters, despite a well-received solo debut at Carnegie Hall, and another at Covent Garden in a Beecham-led concert performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia . Her occasional Russian song recitals on the BBC proved popular, however, and it was one of these that led in 1938 to a limited edition of four 78s sponsored by a prominent London record shop owner. Their success resulted in several more recordings after the war in similar repertoire, this time for Decca, as well as a later series in the 1950s, and as late as 1961.


The voice began as a lyric soprano, very pure, and well equalized across its range. In her prime Slobodskaya possessed a powerful, gleaming top (and the power never left her), astride a ruby-dark chest register of great beauty. She was an interpretative artist of the Russian Romantic tradition, which involved enunciating words carefully and phrasing with great attention paid to emotional expression. Like other top-flight Russian sopranos, she took no prisoners: If the music’s drama called for great variation in intensity and dynamics—as Russian opera and song often does—Slobodskaya threw herself into these effects, relying upon her training to manage all hurdles. Unlike many of her rivals back home, her voice wasn’t subjected to systematic overuse by house management.


All of this can heard in her recording reproduced on this twofer of Tatiana’s Letter Scene ( Eugen Onegin ), from 1938. Her attention to musical markings and changes of character focus are extraordinary, and have a detail that few have matched over time. In this respect she confidently takes her place alongside the likes of Sofia Preobrazhenskaya and Ivan Kozlovsky. The voice is heavy for a young woman in the blush of first love, but then, this was sung by a soprano who was 50 at the time that recording was made. We can only wonder what she might have achieved if 78s had caught her in the early 1920s, at the time she took part in the premiere of Stravinsky’s Mavra.


Still, there’s much to enjoy from this period: the rapt opening of Cui’s The Statue at Tsarkoye Sel , the higher notes floated as softly as a summer’s breeze; the fine vocal gradations of Rachmaninoff’s Lilacs , somehow conveyed in a manner that seems wholly without calculation; the carefully balanced mix of drama and shared confidence in Tcherepnin’s I Would Have Kissed You . By the end of World War II the voice was clearly that of a mezzo, without, however, any loss of firmness. Her evocative version of Grechaninov’s The Dreary Steppe gives evidence of that, as does Balakirev’s Hebrew Melody.


Then there are the late souvenirs of 1961. It was Decca’s recording producer, Christopher Raeburn, who later recalled suggesting to Slobodskaya that she preface brief remarks to several of her songs, much as she did in her recitals, and given her strong Russian accent and immaculate diction, to great effect. These are not the comments of a concert platform artist, though, but the enthusiastic sharings of a baba reading a fairytale out loud to a child. Not so, the subsequent singing—that derives from a mezzo who still has perfect intonation, great characterization, and a solid technique in her 70s. No apologies need be made for her version of Rachmaninoff’s The Soldier’s Wife or Shostakovich’s Six Spanish Songs , much less the uninhibited spirits of Stravinsky’s Three Tales for Children , and Kabalevsky’s Seven Nursery Rhymes.


The accompaniments, nearly all of which feature the underrated Ivor Newton, are ever spirited and musical. Sound is generally very good, though Decca seems to have problems across the decades adapting to Slobodskaya’s powerful top. A very few of the earliest 78s display instances of side swing, but constriction isn’t evident. Very light filtering is employed, thankfully. I could have wished for transliterated texts and translations, if only to give new listeners a better sense of the singer’s great acting skill, but economic considerations obviously precluded that.


In short, this is a very welcome rerelease. Hopefully it will do well for Decca, as they have enough material on hand to make another twofer, including Slobodskaya’s Polish songs and the few items recorded for HMV in 1931 that sadly never led to a contract. Strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Romances (10), Op. 17: no 9, The restless heart is beating by Sergei Taneyev
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883/1905; Russia 
2.
Romances (10), Op. 17: no 7, Nocturne "In the scented autumn night" by Sergei Taneyev
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878/1905; Russia 
3.
Romances (10), Op. 17: no 2, Dreams wither in solitude by Sergei Taneyev
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1895/1903; Russia 
4.
Romances (10), Op. 17: no 10, The world is asleep by Sergei Taneyev
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; Russia 
5.
To forget so soon by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1870; Russia 
6.
Songs (7), Op. 47: no 7, Was I not a little blade of grass? by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Russia 
7.
Songs (7), Op. 47: no 1, If I had only known by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Russia 
8.
Songs (6), Op. 57: no 2, On the golden cornfields by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884; Russia 
9.
I would have kissed you by Nikolai N. Tcherepnin
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
10.
Songs (12), Op. 21: no 7, How fair this spot by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; Russia 
11.
Songs (12), Op. 21: no 5, Lilacs by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; Russia 
12.
Poems (25) by Pushkin, Op. 57: no 17, La statue de Tsarskoïe Selo by César Cui
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Russia 
13.
Reminiscences by Traditional
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
14.
I'm sitting on a stone by Traditional
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
15.
The merry wife by Traditional
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
16.
My native land by Alexander Grechaninov
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
17.
Lullaby by Alexander Grechaninov
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
18.
I travel over the bleak steppe by Alexander Grechaninov
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: USSR 
19.
Like an angel by Alexander Grechaninov
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
20.
Sea Princess by Alexander Borodin
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868; Russia 
21.
From my tears by Alexander Borodin
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1870-1871; Russia 
22.
Songs (20): no 13, Hebrew melody by Mily Balakirev
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Russia 
23.
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24: Tatiana's letter scene by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano)
Conductor:  Anatole Fistoulari
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1878; Russia 
24.
Children's Songs (16), Op. 54: no 16, Child's song by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; Russia 
25.
Songs (15), Op. 26: no 7, To the children by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906; Russia 
26.
Songs (12), Op. 14: no 2, The isle by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Russia 
27.
The soldier's wife by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
28.
Russian Folksongs (12), Op. 104: no 9, Dunyushka by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USSR 
29.
In the forest by Matvey Blanter
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USSR 
30.
Katyusha by Matvey Blanter
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; USSR 
31.
Trois histoires pour enfants by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915-1917; Switzerland 
32.
Nursery Rhymes (7) by Dmitri Kabalevsky
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
33.
Spanish Songs (6), Op. 100 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Oda Slobodskaya (Soprano), Ivor Newton (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; USSR 

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