Global opera star Dmitri Hvorostovsky has electrified audiences everywhere with his interpretations of Rodrigo, Germont, Don Giovanni, Rigoletto, Onegin, Yeletsky…. Throughout Europe and America, as in his native Russia, the great baritone is equally celebrated as a recitalist who brings to song literature the same intense emotional commitment, musical insight, and sheer vocal beauty. “Petersburg, a vocal poem” was composed for Mr. Hvorostovsky by the distinguished Russian composer Georgi Sviridov (1915-1998). The texts, by 20th century poet Alexandr Blok, were written between 1901 and 1914, and reflect the traumatic state of mind and soul that permeated Russian society in the “Silver Age” of Russian arts and letters preceding World War I. Sviridov worked on “Petersburg” over a period of 20 years, creating a masterful unity of music and texts as poignant for our time as for the era when St. Petersburg symbolized the best and worst in Russian society. Hvorostovsky sings the nine songs as a full participant with composer and poet in creating the powerful impact of “Petersburg.” Mr. Hvorostovsky and his frequent accompanist Mikhail Arkadiev performed “Petersburg” at Sviridov’s 80th Birthday Jubilee Celebration in 1995, for a live audience including the composer himself and Russia’s Prime Minister, and for a television audience throughout Russia. Much celebrated in Russia, Georgi Sviridov’s songs and romances, composed to texts by outstanding poets like Blok, Pushkin, Esenin and Pasternak, form a unique legacy in Russian music, more eclectic and accessible than those by his peers, but unparalleled in their seamless union of poetry and music. Mr. Hvorostovsky, who has long championed Sviridov’s songs, has chosen the composer’s earliest vocal work as the companion piece for “Petersburg” on this remarkable album. The Six Romances set to words by Alexandr Pushkin were composed in 1935 when the composer was 19. The cycle was Sviridov’s very first venture into writing songs, 60 years before the completion of “Petersburg.” The six songs, set to famous verses by Russia’s greatest poet, already demonstrate Sviridov’s remarkable affinity for uniting words and music; and it is not difficult to understand why Shostakovich pronounced the young composer a genius.