- The Youth and the Maiden, for voice & piano
Dmitri Hvorostovsky's Pushkin Romances can be seen as a companion to his 2009 Delos release Tchaikovsky Romances, which also features pianist Ivari Ilja. A remarkably versatile poet, Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) provided the source material for the vast majority of significant 19th century Russian operas, including Glinka's "Ruslan and Lyudmila," Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov," Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" and "The Queen of Spades," and Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Golden Cockerel," as well as texts that have served as the basis for hundreds of song settings. The 17 songs Hvorostovsky sings here are the work of 10 composers and span nearly a century, from the mid-1830s to the mid-'30s. Most of the major 19th century Russian composers have works included, except for Mussorgsky, and the 20th century is represented by Nicolay Medtner and the more obscure Alexander Vlasov and Georgy Sviridov. The songs are warmly Romantic and unabashedly expressive, and those by Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, Medtner, and Rachmaninov are especially attractive and memorable. With his large, dramatic baritone, interpretive sensitivity, and long familiarity with these songs, Hvorostovsky is the ideal interpreter for this passionate repertoire. If there is any critique of the album it's that, with a few exceptions, the songs tend to be on emotional overdrive, and taken all together they can be a little overwhelming, particularly when Hvorostovsky brings to them the expressive heat and fervor they call for. Pianist Ilja likewise pulls out all the stops and plays with dramatic intensity. Listeners might appreciate the recital best when it is taken in several smaller portions. Delos' sound is clean, warmly ambient, and very present.