Russian Settings of Robert Burns

Russian Settings of Robert Burns

by Vassily Savenko

CD

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Overview

Russian Settings of Robert Burns

Russian admiration for the poetry of Robert Burns dates not, as might be supposed, from the nineteenth century but from the Communist era, when Burns was regarded as a kind of people's poet. The specific stimulus for the settings on this release by Shostakovich and the infamous Tikhon Khrennikov, from which the other works flowed, was the World War II alliance between the Soviet Union and Britain. Russian Jewish poet Samuil Marshak translated Burns into Russian, taking care to avoid the raunchier aspects (Stalin was a notorious puritan) and anything detracting from the main message of peasant virtue. He also required many words to say what Burns could say in a few. English translations included in the booklet are not translations of Burns but of Marshak's translations, and they are in several cases a good deal longer than the originals. They also show Marshak's massagings. The booklet includes two essays; one, by Burns scholar Andrew Noble, is critical of the Soviet appropriation of Burns, but both note the ways in which some of the composers, Shostakovich especially, worked at cross purposes with their lyricist. Burns' war poetry calls forth some of the strongest responses from these composers, living under the shadow of a war in which 20 million soldiers died. The setting of "Highland Laddie" by Gyorgy Sviridov, composed in 1955, makes explicit the bleakness contained in Burns' lyric. Burns' humor largely goes by the wayside, although the sly setting of "Comin' Thro' the Rye" by Shostakovich (track 14) is an exception. Sviridov and Levitin were Shostakovich's students, and their settings bear a resemblance to each other's, although not so much to their teacher's; the more conservative Khrennikov retreated to the language of late Russian romanticism, and it's quite a shock to hear the words of "Auld Lang Syne" (whose popularity in North America is largely the work of the bandleader Guy Lombardo) set in this way. The ideological complexities involved in this music shouldn't obscure the fact that it's for the most part a lot of fun, and the performances by Ukrainian-British bass-baritone Vassily Savenko are enthusiastic and confident. He is ably accompanied by Aleksandr Blok, a relative of the poet of the same name. Another intriguing hour from the consistently original Toccata Classics label.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/12/2009
Label: Toccata
UPC: 5060113440396
catalogNumber: 39
Rank: 227327

Tracks

  1. Songs to Verses by Robert Burn (9), for voice & piano
  2. Songs (2) to Verses by Robert Burns, for voice & piano
  3. Romances (6) to verses by English poets, for bass & piano, Op. 62 (orchestrated as Op62a): 2. V polyakh, pod sengom i dozhdyom (In Snow-girt
  4. Romances (6) to verses by English poets, for bass & piano, Op. 62 (orchestrated as Op62a): 3. McPherson pered kazn'yu (McPherson before his E
  5. Romances (6) to verses by English poets, for bass & piano, Op. 62 (orchestrated as Op62a): 4. Jenny (Comin thro' the Rye)
  6. Song-Cycle to Verses by Robert Burns, Op. 51, for voice & piano
  7. Songs to Verses by Robert Burns (5), for voice & piano: 1. Zastol'naya (A Toast: Auld Lang Syne)
  8. Songs to Verses by Robert Burns (5), for voice & piano: 2. Luchshy paren (The Bonniest Lad: Highland Laddi
  9. Songs to Verses by Robert Burns (5), for voice & piano: 5. V polyakh, pod snegom i dozhdyom (In Snow-girt

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