Delos continues its unparalleled Russian Romances Series with Dmitri Shostakovich: Vocal Cycles of the Last Years, the second release in a five-volume series encapsulating the first complete recorded survey of the songs of the great Russian composer. Two of the five works on Vocal Cycles of the Last Years are CD premieres. The five vocal cycles presented here were written during the last decade of Shostakovich’s life when the composer was experiencing unprecedented success and prosperity. He had achieved international fame and finally found favor with the Soviet authorities. Contemplating his harrowing life and career from a new perspective, he gained the ability to speak his mind without fear. The result was a collection of utterly poignant, passionate and personal vocal music expertly integrating poetical, literary and musical expression. A Foreword to my Complete Works and a Brief Contemplation with Respect to this Foreword, which appears on CD for the first time, was written by Shostakovich for a concert dedicated to his own 60th anniversary. The text enumerates the many and varied titles lavished upon the composer by the Soviet state, masterfully manipulated by painfully ironic music. Five Romances to Words from Krokodil Magazine mocks the mundane vulgarity and stupidity inherent in the letters of common folk submitted to the popular comic publication. Rather than a simple musical adaptation of hideous human absurdities, Shostakovich creates a vibrant and vivid theatrical piece. The multilayered poetry of Alexander Blok are matched by Shostakovich’s instrumentation in Seven Poems by A. Blok – A Vocal and Instrumental Suite for Soprano, Violin, Cello and Piano. The songs’ simplicity and austerity belie the poet’s passionate verse. In the smoky Six Poems by Marina Tsvetayeva, Shostakovich must have felt slightly smug at setting the Tsvetayevan prophecy in the opening poem My Verses – “My verses, like vintage wines, will have their time.” For his final song cycle, Shostakovich found inspiration in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Demons, for which the author was condemned by Soviet literary critics and which echoed many of the composer’s own private trials and reflections. The subject of Four Poems of Captain Lebyadkin, is a rather repulsive character whose traits Shostakovich masterminds into a miniature magnum opus of mockery, at the same time allowing the composer to liberate himself of the inner pains experienced over the previous decades. Here Shostakovich fuses literature, ideology, satire, parody, theater and music into an absolutely new genre of vocal art. Delos’ Russian Romances Series is the brainchild of Yuri Serov, pianist and professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, whose extensive research and performance of the material combine to create a comprehensive overview of Russian vocal music both familiar and new. Each installment in the series offers the complete songs of the composer represented. Also available are the first complete collection of Prokofiev’s Songs and Romances (DE 3275, 3 CDs), and the Complete Songs and Romances of Borodin (DE 3277).
Shostakovich: A Foreword to My Complete Works and a Brief Contemplation with Respect to this Foreword Op. 123 (1966) – First Appearance on CD Five Romances on Words from Krokodil Magazine, Op. 121 (1965) Autographic Testimony ~ A Difficult to Fulfill Desire ~ Discretion Irinka and the Shepherd ~ Exaggerated Delight Fyodor Kuznetsov, bass Seven Poems by A. Blok. A Vocal and Instrumental Suite for Soprano, Violin, Cello, and Piano, Op. 127 (1967) Ophelia’s Song ~ Gamauyn the Soothsaying Bird (Picture by V. Vasnetsov) We Were Together ~ The City Sleeps ~ The Tempest ~ Secret Signs ~ Music Victoria Evtodieva, soprano Lidia Kovalenko, violin – Irina Molokina, cello Six Poems By Marina Tsvetayeva, a suite for contralto and piano, Op. 143 (1973) My Verses ~ Whence All This Tenderness? Dialogue between Hamlet and His Conscience ~ The Poet And The Czar No, The Drum Did Beat ~ To Anna Akhmatova Lyubov Sokolova, mezzo soprano – First Appearance on CD Four Poems of Captain Lebyadkin, Op. 146 (1974) Captain Lebiadkin’s Love ~ The Cockroach ~ A Costume Ball for the Benefit of Governesses ~ A Luminous Personality Fyodor Kuznetsov, bass