Paata Burchuladze sings Russian Songs
As with so much else in Russian music, it was Glinka who set crucial examples to his successors with his treatment of song, and this record refiects the two principal courses Russian song has taken. Glinka's own most intimate, lyrical side is shown in the Pushkin setting which concludes the recital, The fire of longing burns in my blood. This love of the tender, the elegant, the slightly doleful but always the well-mannered presentation of emotion derives, of course, from the French romance and has little or nothing to do with the German Lied It meant much to Tchaikovsky, two of whose most beautiful examples are included—Amid the din of the ball and the famous None but the lonely heart. Paata Burchuladze makes rather heavy weather of the latter: instead of letting this, and other comparable songs in his recital, make their own point by the simplest singing, he tends to try to milk them of emotion, laying on a lugubrious vibrato and letting his powertul tone balloon in phrases that need no such emphasis. Much the same applies to Dargomizhsky's setting of one of Pushkin's most famous and most beautiful short poems, I loved you. It is good to see Dargomizhsky so generously represented: the six songs here included give, on the whole, a fair representation of his capacity for a lyrical line, his vivid ear for declamation, his poetic sensibility. I am sad is another example of that kind of melancholy lyricism particular to Russian song, also beautifully caught here in Tchaikovsky's A tear trembles.
Burchuladze, with his sensitive pianist Ludmilla Ivanova, is more successful in the other prindpal vein particular to Russian song, the declamatory scene or evocative genre piece. Glinka's classic example, The midnight review is not included here; but it is the spiritual father of several that are. Anton Rubinstein's He stands silently before the commander, is presumably included more for curiosity value than for anything else: it is not a distinguished example of the genre. But Burchuladze does quite well for it, and he rises powerfully to the occasion for Dargomizhsky's grimly impressive The old corporal, in which the grizzled veteran braces up the spirits and resolve of his own firing squad. He also has a good touch of humour for The miller, as the cuckolded fool's wife tries to delude him about the mysterious pair of boots he finds when returning home unexpectedly. There is a nice undercurrent of bitterness in Borodin's Heine setting, My songs are filled with poison, and a single example by Arensky, The day has ended, is quite agreeably handled. But on the whole Burchuladze is more at home with songs where drama intervenes and when a narrative rather than reflective element predominates. The recording is clear and well balanced, with a pleasantly. forward acoustic. A word of praise for the booklet. Words of all the songs in four languages are included (with sensible English translations), and the whole is prefaced by an essay by David Brown which could have been longer but which says a great deal in a short space.'