Romances on Verses by Mikhail Lermontov, Op. 40 (1935-6)
Violin Sonata in F major, Op. 70 (1946-7)
Notebook of Lyrics, Op. 72 (1946)
Elizaveta Pakhomova (soprano, Romances), Tatiana Barsukova (soprano, Notebook), Marina Dichenko (violin), Olga Solovieva (piano)
Producer & Engineer Ilya Dontsov (Romances & Notebook), Maria Lenarskaya (Sonata)
Toccata Classics TOCC0355 [68’16”]
Recorded 25 May 2007 at Theatre and Concert Centre, Moscow (Violin Sonata), 29 April & 29 June at Studio One, Russian Radio House, Moscow (Notebook), 23 & 24 January at Production Complex Tonstudio, Mosfilm, Moscow
Written by Richard Whitehouse
What’s the story?
Toccata Classics here inaugurates a significant series which is devoted to the complete vocal works by Nikolay Myaskovsky, whose sizable corpus of songs remains the one aspect of his output still to be explored, together with a further recorded appearance for the Violin Sonata.
What’s the music like?
Myaskovsky’s 115 published songs come predominantly from his formative years and early maturity. Notebook of Lyrics is actually his last cycle so conceived, ‘six romances’ dedicated to Mira Mendelson (second wife of Prokofiev) whose texts furnish the opening four songs – their introspective and confessional mood culminating in the anguished pathos of the fourth, How often at night. Mendelson’s translation of two Burns poems round-off this cycle, the fervour of My heart’s in the Highlands followed with the poignancy of My Bonnie Mary.
Appealing as this cycle is as sung by Tatiana Barsukova, the Romances on Verses by Mikhail Lermontov is the highlight here – its 12 songs confirmation of Myaskovsky’s rootedness in a lineage stemming back from Rachmaninoff via Tchaikovsky to Glinka. The initial A Cossack Lullaby marginally outstays its welcome, but thereafter each of these settings renders its text with unerring candour as they build to the inevitable yet understated climax in Forgive me! We will not meet again – its enveloping valediction ideally caught by Elizaveta Pakhomova. Interestingly, these two cycles were premiered at the same Moscow recital by Nina Dorliak and Sviatoslav Richter on 29th April 1947 such as also featured a first performance for the composer’s Violin Sonata by the formidable partnership of David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin.
As was once remarked about buses, one waits ages for an account of the Violin Sonata only for three to come along in as many years. Ironic when the third to appear should have been the first to be recorded: Marina Dichenko’s predating over a decade those by Alexey Lundin with Mikhail Ludsky (Moscow Conservatory Records, coupled with Myaskovsky’s 11 piano sonatas), then Sasha Rozhdestvensky with Viktoria Postnikova (First Hand Record, coupled with violin sonatas by Shebalin and Nechaev). The present recording is that of the definitive version as published in 1948, which aims to clarify aspects of the interplay between this duo as well as the work’s unusual trajectory – a flowing though restrained Allegro followed by a Theme with Twelve Variations and Coda, which latter brings about the decisive conclusion.
Does it all work?
Very much so. The two cycles featured here confirm Myaskovsky to be no less skilled in his writing for voice than for piano, string quartet or orchestra – while his identification with the text at hand comes through almost all these settings. It helps to have so sensitive and attuned a pianist as Olga Solovieva – already familiar to Russian music enthusiasts for recordings of Lyadov (Northern Flowers), Shebalin (Toccata) or Boris Tchaikovsky (Albany and Naxos) – whose subtle resourcefulness duly enhances the expressive immediacy of the music-making.
Is it recommended?
Indeed. The various dates and localities yield relatively little difference in terms of their sound quality, while Yuri Abdokov’s annotations are exemplary in terms both of specific works and general context. One hopes this is a series which circumstances will enable to run its course.