Borodin’s songs have become better known in the West of late, and this recital should draw further attention to some beautiful and original music. Leiferkus includes about two-thirds of Borodin’s total output, and makes out a good case for their range by skilfully modifying tone and manner to each of their various needs. Perhaps he is rather overemphatic with Song of the dark forest, but it does help to set in contrast his charmingly tender handling of The sleeping princess and the warmth he brings to For the shores of thy far native land, skilfully invoking the richness of Schumann. The pretty girl no longer loves me is ruefully not tragically sung, with a sly tinge of irony.
Dargomizhsky, more of a Slavophile than Borodin,Read more had the realism and the sharp wit to turn various poems into little dramatic sketches that depend more on sharp observation than on forms. The Titular Councillor who gets rejected paces away from the girl with an awkward dignity exactly caught in Semion Skigin’s stiff rhythms and Leiferkus’s mock dignity. Pushkin’s miller, drunkenly muddling his boots with a pair of buckets, lurches with a good deal less security. The worm who allows the Count’s attentions to his wife attracts a brilliant sarcasm. And nothing in this whole recital is more affecting than the handling of what is perhaps Dargomizhsky’s masterpiece among his songs, the scena in which the old corporal who has insulted a young popinjay of an officer stiffens up his comrades’ resolve and sets the pace as they march to where he must be shot. A last puff at his pipe, an angry rejection of a blindfold, and he wishes them a safe journey home. Leiferkus’s refusal of sentimentality, and Skigin’s quiet delivery of the very short postlude, say all that need be said.