A Delos highlight over the past few years has been the label’s comprehensive series of complete art songs and romances of important Russian composers. The newest addition to this distinguished series is a two-CD set featuring the complete Romances (songs) composed by Mily Balakirev (1836-1910). This recording adds one more to an impressive list already available, including the Complete Songs of Shostakovich (five CDs), Songs and Romances of Prokofiev (three CDs), Romances of Borodin (one CD) and the first of three volumes of songs by Mikhail Glinka. As a group, these unique releases offer a wide swath of Russian music unfamiliar to most Western music lovers, a project conceived by the remarkable Yuri Serov – Russian musician, scholar and pianist. Yuri has painstakingly gathered and edited a vast amount of material: music, lyrics and translations. He has also chosen appropriate vocal soloists, principally Russian opera stars from the St. Petersburg Kirov Opera, whom he accompanies as they interpret a vast range of 19th and 20th-century music. Known to music lovers as the composer of the piano virtuoso solo Islamey and other exotic compositions, Balakirev was in his time one of the most influential musicians working in Russia, and initiator of the nationalistic group of composers known as the “Five.” Balakirev loved good poetry and chose his Romance texts wisely. He produced some 46 songs that still astonish with their beauty, sensitivity to poetic texts and melodic richness; often on a level of the best of Borodin and even Tchaikovsky. Serov and his soloists demonstrate their familiarity with the language, historical background and Russian song literature, as well as their individual vocal powers; all contributing great authenticity to this recording.