Thursday, July 31, 2014

Galina Vishnevskaya and Mstislav Rostropovich perform Rachmaninoff and Glinka

   Song is definitely a cultural phenomenon. It unites poetry, music and performance in one clear economic form. It is more than just a communiqué, it is an exposure comprising human processes: emotional and intellectual, private and social, natural and cultural. Song is present since ancient times, throughout history, to the present day. There were special moments, when song in various forms became particularly important, like late mediaeval canson or early baroque accompanied monody. Song is especially significant as a medium of rebellion and protest. Artistic song was also probably most characteristic musical form of romantic era. In 19th century European culture poetry was probably more popular than ever before, and musical elaboration of poems took prominent place in many social events. No wonder almost every composer was trying his potential in songs, song cycles, small forms for voice or even instrumental miniatures constructed as songs.
   Russian composers were especially creative in this field which was the result of great romance tradition giving song special place in repertoire and in collective memory. Russian culture until XVIII century was developing in isolation. In consequence of religious and cultural differences, Russian music was almost impenetrable from West European positions. The first Russian composer who became internationally recognized was Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857). He become famous for his operatic works, especially A Life for the Tzar (1936 original title Ivan Susanin) Ruslan and Lyudmila (1942) after poem by Alexander Pushkin. He was also author of chamber and orchestral compositions, with most popular symphonic piece Kamarinskaya (1848) and two Spanish Overtures (1845 and 1851). He composed also numerous artistic songs to romantic poems by Alexander Pushkin, Nestor von Kukolnik, Friedrich von Schiller and Adam Mickiewicz.

Galina Vishnevskaya  Songs by Rachmaninov and Glinka (1976)

   Romantic era was the time of great rise of culture in imperial Russia. During the one century Russian composers gained rated positions and become leading power in late romantic period. One of late romantic composers was Sergei Rachmaninoff, composer and pianist famous mainly for his four piano concertos and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. He is remembered as brilliant pianist and his works are often present in virtuoso piano recitals, especially Preludes. His works comprise three operas, three symphonies, two string quartets, and series of choral works, many of them liturgical. And maybe the biggest amount of his works are compositions for voice with piano with famous Vocalise Op. 34 No. 14 (1912). He was composing songs to great Russian poetry, to lyrics of Ivan Bunin, Alexander Pushkin, Yakov Polonsky and Fyodor Tyutchev.
   Both composers, Glinka and Rachmaninoff are great masters of artistic song, and this part of their work was the subject of frequent renditions. One of the best is Deutsche Grammophon album with the recital of songs written by two romantic composers. Chronologic order was reversed and five Rachmaninoff songs were placed in side A of the record: Ночь печальна (Night is Mournful) Op. 26 No. 12, Не пой красавица (Beauty, Don’t Sing Anymore) Op. 4 No. 4, Музыка (Music) Op. 34 No. 8, Весенная вода (Spring Waters) Op. 14 No. 11 and Вокализ (Vocalise) Op. 34 No. 14. B side comprises 8 songs by Glinka: Сомнение (Doubt), Я помню чудное мгновение (I Remember the Wonderful Moment), Как сладко с тобой мне быть (How Sweet is to Be with You), К ней (To Her), Только узнал я тебя (I Just Found You), Венецианская Ночь (Night in Venice), Жаворонок (The Lark) and Баркарола (Barcarolle). This album of songs by Mikhail Glinka and Sergei Rachmaninoff was recorded in 1976. It is beautiful presentation of two Russian artists, singer Galina Vishnevskaya and famous cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich who was also perfect pianist and sophisticated accompanist. Four stars for poetic and musical features of repertoire and for the quality of performance.

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