Songs and Dances of Death (VAI 4330)
After Hvorostovsky won the Cardiff Competition in 1989, record companies were queuing up to sign a contract with him. Philips was chosen and promptly a small number of recitals and a few complete operas were recorded with him.
Hvorostovsky in Cardiff:
It was all too premature, Hvorostovsky was not ready: he did not speak any languages but his own, and his repertoire was much too limited. His contract was not renewed, and things went downhill for him.
But he redeemed himself in a big way! On 18 July 1998, he gave a recital for thousands of enthusiastic listeners at the Festival de Lanaudière. He sang the Songs and Dances of Death by Mussorgsky, followed by a number of arias.
I have to confess that I had been planning to read a book to help me pass the time, but I never did. Instead I listened breathlessly to his velvety voice, his matchless legato and his flawless interpretation, which moved me to tears. As Hvorostovsky is such a very charismatic singer, it is a pure unadulterated pleasure to be watching him.
Hvorostovsky and Charles Dutoit in Rossini’s ‘Largo al Factotum’ (Barbiere di Seviglia by Rossini):
Russian Songs from the war years (VAI 4318)
Patriotism has become an old-fashioned word. Everything has to be international, global, multicultural and cosmopolitan, and maybe that’s for the best. The Second World War ended seventy-five years ago, and it seems so long gone….
Yet there are still people alive who experienced ‘The Great Patriotic War’. There are still (personal) stories. And then there are the songs. I grew up with them; the Russian songs from that time. My mother, who had fought in the Red Army throughout the war, sang them instead of lullabies, and they made me dream about the lonely accordionist looking for his beloved.
None other than Dmitri Hvorostovsky brought them back to the concert hall, and on 8 April 2003 he performed them for no less than 6,500 spectators in the Kremlin Palace.
Below, Hvorostovsky sings “Журавли” (Cranes) from the film “When the cranes fly over”, by Mikhail Kalatozov:
The arrangements have been slightly altered; they sound less over the top, they have been loosened up a little and they are foremost nostalgic. There is no ‘hurrah patriotism’.
Hvorostovsky sings in a clearly relaxed way, with a mild smile around his mouth, without any vocal exaggeration or obvious articulation. A bit like a crooner, a Sinatra or a Bing Crosby.
The audience sniffles softly and mouthes the words, soundlessly singing along. I too become fascinated and feel a tingling sensation in my eyes. Nostalgia? My Dutch friend, born on Curaçao, was just as moved. Very touching.