Dmitri Hvorostovsky: “Wait for Me”,National Pride
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Dmitri Hvorostovsky: “Wait for Me”

spacer Classic Russian songs of the war years by Blanter, Dolukhanyan, Dunaevsky, Gorbenko, Kolmanovsky, Solovyov-Sedov, Pakhmutova and Petrov; Ministry of Internal Affairs Chorus, Style of Five, Novaya Opera Orchestra, Orbelian. Transliterated texts and translations. Delos 3475

National Pride

Delos releases its stirring third program of Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing one of his unrivaled specialties — Soviet-era popular songs.

Hvor_WaitCD

Delos has released another convincingly produced collection of Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing one of his currently unrivaled specialties, Soviet-era popular songs. The baritone’s previous Delos releases in this genre, Where Are You, My Brothers? (2003) and Moscow Nights (2005), elevated Hvorostovsky to a popularity within Russia way beyond the good opinion of classical-music audiences. In keeping, perhaps, with the current nationalist mood celebrating Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and saber-rattling stance, this disc returns to the genre and sentiments of Where Are You, My Brothers? Its contents largely recall the immense sacrifices made by the Soviet people and the Red Army on the European front of World War II and the genuine hardship inflicted on them by Stalin’s poor military judgment. (Stalin opened a Pacific front only in August 1945, the month Japan surrendered.) May 8 marked the seventieth anniversary of V-E day, and with the gradual disappearance of the heroic generation that won that victory, the commemoration within Russia is bound to be fervent.

The album takes its name from the vastly popular and effective poem “Zhdi menja, i ja vernjus’” (Wait for me, and I’ll return), by war correspondent and poet Konstantin Simonov. Originally a personal communication to his girlfriend, it was published in Pravda in January 1942 and immediately embraced by millions waiting for reunions with loved ones. Hvorostovsky sounds committed in two wartime settings, by Matvei Blanter and Nikolai Gorbenko.

Some of Evgeny Stetsyuk’s arrangements — among them the cantata aria “We need peace” (Nam nuzhen mir) — occasionally sound too “Hollywood” for home listening. (One could also say “too Mosfilm,” as the recording was done at that legendary film studio.) But Hvorostovsky, his burnished baritone only slightly affected by time since the previous releases, takes such excesses in stride, as well as the sustained, hushed mood of Blanter’s balalaika-infused “Kak sluzhil soldat” (How the Soldier Served).

There may be a little more air in Hvorostvsky’s piano shadings and tonal flutter and wear on sustained phrases, but in general he’s still in very solid vocal shape. His excellent diction and natural phrasing make his popularity in this genre understandable. Among the sixty-four minutes of music, the least effective numbers are “Minuty tishiny” (Moments of Silence), in which Hvorostovsky is somewhat less riveting in a purely parlando assignment, and the similarly restrained “Ballad of a Soldier,” taken in uncomfortable half-voice. 

Protean conductor Constantine Orbelian again serves as a worthy collaborator; he and the baritone dedicate the album to their parents, who were members of the wartime generation. Style of Five, Stetsyuk’s skilled, versatile folk group, proves an invaluable asset here. The chorus, recorded in a recessed acoustic, assists on such numbers as Blanter’s potently nostalgic “Pushki molchat dalnoboiynye” (Long-range cannons are silent). spacer 

DAVID SHENGOLD

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