Gramophone Song Award 2022


Asmik Grigorian sop Lukas Geniušas pf


After triumphs on stage in Salzburg (Salome) and Madrid (Rusalka) that have already made it to DVD and Blu ray, Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian makes her solo recording debut, having recently signed for the enterprising Alpha Classics. She has appeared on disc before, guesting on Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s ‘War, Peace, Love and Sorrow’ release (Delos, 11/16), the baritone a family friend, having been a Mariinsky colleague of her father, tenor Gegham Grigorian. For this solo debut, she offers an album devoted to the songs of Sergey Rachmaninov.

I’ve seen Grigorian in a number of performances (most recently her thrilling Liza in Pique Dame) and she has an immediately recognisable soprano. It’s a flexible instrument with flashes of steel in the timbre; but what’s most striking about it is the way she imbues the voice with emotion, conveying a sense of anguish, vulnerability or passion. Even on disc, without the visuals, you can hear how Grigorian lives and breathes each song. Like most Russian romances, Rachmaninov’s are not happy affairs, with their fair share of brooding, break-ups, bitter torments and loneliness. Moments of joy, such as the change in seasons in ‘Spring Waters’, are few and far between.

Grigorian is utterly compelling throughout. The mood is immediately set in the title-track, ‘Dissonance’, remembrance and the pain of parting expressed in the inflection of her voice and halting hesitations. The tormented numbers hit home strongly. She pushes hard in songs like ‘Believe me not, friend’, happy to trade beauty of tone for emotional truth. But she strikes the tenderest tone for ‘Child, thou art as beautiful as a flower’ and pares back her sound in the fragile ‘Twilight’ and the beautiful two verses of ‘Lilacs’. The most famous songs – ‘How fair this spot’ and ‘Sing not to me, beautiful maiden’ – come off movingly, although she does not ‘float’ the high note in the latter with ease. Her remembrances and sense of intoxication are compelling at the height of ‘In the silence of the secret night’.

Pianist Lukas Geniušas is an equal partner dramatically, a torrent of notes flooding ‘Spring Waters’ and echoing Grigorian’s joy in the ecstatic postlude to ‘What happiness’, Alpha’s recorded sound immediate and truthful. Alas, song texts are provided only in English and French translation, with no original Russian texts or transliterations.

Rachmaninov song recital recordings tend to be by male singers, usually baritones. Hvorostovsky himself contributed some of the finest on disc. Among sopranos, Elisabeth Söderström recorded the complete songs with Vladimir Ashkenazy in the 1970s (Decca) and there was a fine selection from Joan Rodgers extrapolated from Howard Shelley’s complete set, which used different singers (Chandos), but this collection from Grigorian and Geniušas deservedly joins their company. Indeed, it’s even finer and one fervently hopes that they may be persuaded to record them all. Mark Pullinger

Gramophone Awards 2022 – The Winners

Select an Award-winner below to read full reviews of each of the winning albums and expert insights from our writers. 

Recording Categories

Opera & Recording of the Year

Korngold: Die tote Stadt (Sols; Bayerisches Staatsorchester / Kirill Petrenko)


Ysaÿe: Six Solo Violin Sonatas (James Ehnes)

Early Music

Josquin: ‘Baisiez Moy’ (Thélème / Jean-Christophe Groffe)


Mahler: Symphony No 7 (Bayerisches Staatsorchester / Kirill Petrenko)


Bartók. Beethoven. Berg: Violin Concertos (Frank-Peter Zimmermann; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Alan Gilbert, Daniel Harding, Kirill Petrenko)


Beethoven: Diabelli Variations (Mitsuko Uchida)

Concept Album

Enargeia (Emily D'Angelo; Das Freie Orchester Berlin / Jarkko Riihimäki)


Abrahamsen: The Snow Queen (Sols; Chorus and Orchestra of the Bavarian State Opera / Cornelius Meister)


’Round Midnight (Quatuor Ebène; Antoine Tamestit; Nicolas Altstaedt)


JS Bach: St Matthew Passion (Sols; Pygmalion / Raphaël Pichon)


Rachmaninov: Songs – ‘Dissonance’ (Asmik Grigorian; Lukas Geniušas)

Voice & Ensemble

‘BariTenor’ (Michael Spyres; Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra / Marko Letonja)

Spatial Audio

Ravel: Orchestral Works (Sinfonia of London / John Wilson)

Special Awards

Label of the Year


Artist of the Year

Barbara Hannigan

Young Artist of the Year

Johan Dalene

Special Achievement

Mozart Momentum (Leif Ove Andsnes; Mahler Chamber Orchestra)

Lifetime Achievement

Daniel Barenboim

Orchestra of the Year

Budapest Festival Orchestra

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