Arensky: Five Romances opus 49 No. 4 - In an album Recollection Suite opus 71
Balakirev: Hebrew Melody
Glinka: I am here, Inezilla. Mary Meri.
Mussorgsky: Song of Saul before his last battle.
Rachmaninov: Twelve Songs opus 14 No. 2, The isle (wds. Shelley)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Four Songs opus 26 - FourSongs opus 41
Shostakovich: Six Songs on Verses by British Poets opus 62 - Sonnet No. 66, 'Tired with all these', The King's campaign, 'The grand old Duke of York'
Taneyev: Ten Romances opus 17 - No. 1: The Islet, No. 2: My thoughts arise and fade, No. 3: Music, when soft voices die, No. 4: The star of blessed dreams
Liatoshinsky: Four Poems opus 14 - No. 4: Time long past Sonnet - opus 15
An unevenly performed compendium redeemed by some striking text settings
Russian songs setting Western poets have made for a number of successful recitals in recent years. Some of the composers here flit with generalised gestures over the surfaces of our Romantic poets‚ without attempting to plumb any depths: such is Arensky with Shelley and Byron‚ as he turns them without much difficulty into the stuff of the Russian salon romans. Savenko and Blok can try too hard to remedy this‚ with overemphatic delivery and phrasing‚ and their hectoring serenade of Glinka’s Inezilla would be likely to have the poor girl cowering in the safety of her balcony.
They are more successful with some of the later songs‚ responding more warmly to Rachmaninov’s morose setting of Shelley’s The Isle than to Taneyev’s rather feeble response to what is‚ after all‚ rather a feeble poem. When they come to Mussorgsky’s setting of Byron’s Song of Saul‚ they let fly with a will‚ and they also respond well to Boris Lyatoshinsky’s remarkably powerful setting of Shelley’s Ozymandias‚ a fluent recitativelike melody over chords of gathering power (the normally scrupulous booklet might have printed the words of this famous sonnet accurately).
Two of the most striking songs come from Shostakovich. One is a briskly sardonic treatment of The Grand Old Duke of York‚ the other a setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66 (in Boris Pasternak’s translation)‚ which he later rewrote for voice and small orchestra. One of the bleakest of all the Sonnets‚ it finds memorable resonance in Shostakovich’s laconic but expressive setting: ‘And art made tonguetied by authority…And simple truth miscalled simplicity’.