Dmitri Hvorostovsky: "Sings of War, Peace, Love and Sorrow"
Arias and scenes by Prokofiev, Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky. With A. Grigorian, Shishkova, Volkov; State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia, Orbelian. Texts and translations. Delos 3517
A PERSON REVIEWING
the several Delos CDs that unite superstar baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky with conductor Constantine Orbelian is at risk of running out of superlatives. The latest recording, from October 2015—though curiously titled and rather short (fifty-four minutes)—is a real pleasure. As Prince Andrei (a role that won him deserved favor at the Met), the baritone sounds remarkably supple and smooth-toned in the lovely opening scene of War and Peace. In subsequent tracks, Hvorostovsky tackles bass-baritone roles he has yet to perform. One exception—and, despite its being perfectly serviceable, the only number he might wish to vacate for the rising generation of bravura singers—is Robert’s declaration of love in Iolanta.
Another Tchaikovsky selection, Mazeppa’s touching avowal of love for the younger Mariya, is superb and draws colorful playing from the instrumentalists; words and music are served with tremendous skill and feeling. (Delos and Orbelian provide idiomatic supporting artists, who animate the dramatic scenes.) After many years as the world’s reigning Yeletsky (Hvorostovsky’s debut role at the Met in 1995), the Siberian baritone turns his attention to Queen of Spades’s other leading low-voiced role, taking on both of Tomsky’s effective “point numbers” with panache. Hvorostovsky’s tone here sounds darkened, but not artificially so, and his delivery of the text is inventive and invested. The first narrative, with its famous refrain, “Tri karty!,” is helpfully presented in context, with the lead-in sung recitative.
The well-reviewed Asmik Grigorian is a familiar type of Russian-trained lyric soprano, with an unusually strong lower register and an attractive middle voice but top fortes more shrill than most Western listeners will appreciate. Grigorian thus better embodies Lermontov’s demonically obsessed Tamara than Tolstoy’s as-yet-untroubled Natasha Rostova. The twenty-six-minute selection from Anton Rubinstein’s Demon may be the most vital cut on this disc; Hvorostovsky offers aptly marbled and seductive tone as the title character. Irina Shishkova (Sonya), the uncanny-sounding countertenor Vadim Volkov (Angel) and the Helikon Opera Chorus offer high-quality support. —David Shengold