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More Details for CD2281-84

Review for CD 2281-84 Dolukhanova
Leider, Songs and Duets

The manifold pleasures of nearly five hours in the captivating, versatile company of Zara Dolukhanova ... Jonathan Woolf - MusicWeb

MusicWeb – September 2004

Zara Alexandrovna DOLUKHANOVA (mezzo) - born 1918
Lieder, Songs, Arias and Duets

Sung in Russian, French, German, English, Latin, Spanish and Aramaic
Recorded 1948-1954. No recording venues given but mainly derived from radio broadcasts. Various orchestral and piano accompanists.

GUILD HISTORICAL THE RUSSIAN LEGACY SERIES GHCD 2281-84 [4CDs: 73.22 + 76.14 + 77.10 + 73.34]

1. Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674): Vittoria mio core! (Domenico Benigni) [3:36]
2. Antonio CALDARA (1670-1736): Come raggio del sol (anonymous) [3:16]
3. Francesco Bartolomeo CONTI (1681-1732): Quella fiamma che m’accende (anonymous) [previously attributed to Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)] [4:01]
4. Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736): Se tu m’ami (Paolo Antonio Rolli) [2:34]
5. Giuseppe GIORDANI (1733-1806): Caro mio ben (anonymous) [3:49]
6. Louis NIEDERMEYER (1802-1861): Pietà, Signore (anonymous) [previously attributed to Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682) and to Rossini] [7:24]
All above sung in Italian  - Moscow Chamber Orchestra; Rudolf Borisovich Barshai (conductor)

7. Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901):
Ave Maria (1880) (liturgical, sung in Latin) Moscow Chamber Orchestra; Rudolf Borisovich Barshai (conductor) [5:45]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

8. Exsultate, Jubilate, K. 165 (liturgical, sung in Latin) Moscow Chamber Orchestra; Rudolf Borisovich Barshai (conductor) [13:46]

The following are sung in Russian (Tracks 9-18)
9. Ridente la calma, K. 210a (152) (anonymous) (also attributed to Josef Myslivecek, 1737- 1781) - Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) rec. 1950 [3:50]
10. Komm, liebe Zither, K. 351 (anonymous) N. Rozov (mandolin) Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) [1:55]
11. Als Luise die Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte, K. 520 (Gabriele von Baumberg), Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) [1:51]
12. An Chloë, K. 524 (Johann Georg Jacobi) Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) rec. 1950 [2:01]
13. COSÌ FAN TUTTE, K. 588: Act I, No. 4—Oh, guarda sorella (Lorenzo da Ponte) Galina Petrovna Sakharova (soprano), Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, Alexei Matveievich Kovalyov (conductor) rec. 1953 [4:19]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

14. SOIRÉES MUSICALES: No. 9–La Regata veneziana (Conte Carlo Pepoli) [3:15]
15. SOIRÉES MUSICALES: No. 10–La Pesca (Nocturne) (Conte Carlo Pepoli) - Nadezhda Appollinarievna Kazantseva (soprano), Anton Ossipovich Bernard (piano) [4:04]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

16. 17. SONGS OF VARIOUS NATIONALITIES (23), WoO 158A ("NEUES VOLKSLIEDERHEFT"): 2 Russian songs No. 13–In the little woods; No. 14–Oh, rivers, rivers (traditional) Alexander Yerokhin (piano), Rostislav Dubinsky (violin), Valentin Berlinsky (cello) [1:37] [2:18]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

18. Vor der Tür, Op. 28, No. 2 (traditional) Andrei Alexeievich Ivanov (baritone), Georgi Borisovich Orentlikher (piano) rec. 1953 [2:14]

CD 2 [75:14]
(All piano accompaniments by Berta Markova Kozel, and sung in Russian, unless otherwise stated)

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

FRAUENLIEBE UND -LEBEN, OP. 42 (Adalbert von Chamisso) Recorded 1953
1. 1. Seit ich ihn gesehen [2:42]
2. 2. Er, der Herrlischte [2:20]
3. 3. Ich kann’s nicht fassen [1:42]
4. 4. Du Ring an meinem Finger [2:08]
5. 5. Helft mir, ihr Schwestern [1:37]
6. 6. Süßer Freund, du blickest [4:28]
7. 7. An meinem Herzen [0:57]
8. 8. Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan [3:51]
Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

9. Wiegenlied, Op. 98, No. 2, D. 498 ("Schlafe, schlafe, holder, süßer Knabe") (anonymous) rec. 1953 [2:19]
10. Die Forelle, Op. 32, D. 550 (Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart) rec. 1950 [1:36]
11. Du bist die Ruh’, Op. 59, No. 3, D. 776 (Friedrich Rückert) [5:17]
12. DIE SCHÖNE MÜLLERIN, OP. 25, D. 795: No. 2—Wohin? (Wilhelm Müller) rec. 1952 [1:51]
13. Ellens Gesang III, Op. 52, No. 6, D. 839 ("Ave Maria") (Adam Storck, after Sir Walter Scott) (6.18) Sung in German, rec. 1953 [6:11]
14. SCHWANENGESANG, D. 957: No. 9—Ihr Bild (Heinrich Heine) rec. 1948 [2:58]
Ferenc LISZT (1811-1886)

15. Gebet, G. 331 (Friedrich Martin Bodenstedt, after Mikhail Y. Lermontov) rec. 1952 [3:23]
16. Oh, quand je dors, G. 282 (Victor Hugo) rec. 1952 [6:04]
17. Der Gluckliche, G. 334 (Adolf von Wilbrandt) rec. 1952 [1:54]
18. Loreley, G. 273 (Heinrich Heine) rec. 1951 [6:56]
19. Vous me quittez?…Malheureux! Tu ne comprends donc pas…Ô dieu, de quelle ivresse
(Jules Barbier) Ivan Semyonovich Kozlovsky (tenor), Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra Samuel Abramovich Samosud (conductor) rec. 1952 [6:08]
20. Léo DELIBES (1836-1891): Bonjour, Suzon (Alfred de Musset) rec. 1950 [2:25]
21. Georges BIZET (1838-1875): Douce mer (Alphonse de Lamartine) rec. 1950 [2:51]
22. Salvatore CARDILLO (1874-1947): Core ‘ngato (Catarì) (Riccardo Cordiferro) (with Orchestra) [4:44]

CD 3 [77:10]
1. Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937): DEUX MÉLODIES HÉBRAÏQUES: No. 1—Kaddish (liturgical) Sung in Aramaic, Nina Svetlanova (piano) [5:02]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946): SIETE CANCIONES POPULARES ESPAÑOLAS (traditional)
Sung in Spanish, Nina Svetlanova (piano)
2. I El Paño moruno [1:14]
3. II  Seguidilla murciana [1:29]
4. III  Asturiana [2:38]
5. IV  Jota [3:22]
6. V  Nana [1:39]
7. VI  Canción [1:21]
8. VII  Polo [1:42]
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903) - Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) rec. 1950s (Sung in Russian)
9. Gedichte (51) von Goethe: No. 9—Mignon IV ("Kennst du das Land?") [5:42]
10. Gedichte (52) von Goethe: No. 11—Der Rattenfänger [2:37]
11. Gedichte (53) von Eduard Mörike: No. 12—Verborgenheit [2:50]
12. Spanisches Liederbuch: No. 13—Seltsam ist Juanas Weise (Emanuel von Geibel) [2:18]
13. Spanisches Liederbuch: No. 16—Wenn du zu den Blumen gehst (Paul Heyse) [1:25]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) - Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) rec. 1950s (Sung in Russian)
14. Allerseelen, Op. 10, No. 8 (Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg) rec. 1950s [2:51]
15. Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2 (Heinrich Hart) rec. 1950s [2:17]
16. Heimliche Aufforderung, Op. 27, No. 3 (John Henry Mackay) rec. 1950s [2:41]
17. Morgen!, Op. 27, No. 4 (John Henry Mackay) rec. 1953 [3:11]
18. Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op. 29, No. 1 (Otto Julius Bierbaum) rec. 1950s [2:45]
19. Hat gesagt - bleibt’s nicht dabei, Op. 36, No. 3 (des Knaben Wunderhorn) [1:52]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)

20. A CHARM OF LULLABIES, OP. 41: No. 5— The Nurse’s Song  (John Phillip) [2:29]
21. No. 4— A Charm (Thomas Randolph)  Sung in English, Nina Svetlanova (piano) [1:33]
22. Alexander Sergeievich Dargomyzhsky (1813-1869): Fair maidens (Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin), Galina Petrovna Sakharova (soprano), Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) rec. 1950 [1:46]
César Antonovich CUI (1835-1918) - Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) rec. 1950s
23. Confidant, Op. 57, No. 8 (Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin) rec. 1951 [0:54]
24. Evening glow (anonymous) rec. 1951 [1:54]
25. Lilacs quickly fading here, Op. 54, No. 5 (René-François Sully-Prudhomme) [2:37]
26. Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893): In the garden near the ford, Op. 46, No. 4 (Ivan Zakharovich Surikov, after Taras Shevchenko) Galina Petrovna Sakharova (soprano), Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) rec. 1950 [1:50]
27. Sergei Ivanovich TANEIEV (1856-1915): Let it sound no more, Op. 17, No. 3 (Konstantin Dmitrievich Balmont, after Percy Bysshe Shelley) Alexander Pavlovich Dolukhanian (piano) rec. 1947 [2:28]
28. Anton Stepanovich ARENSKY (1861-1906): SIX CHILDREN’S SONGS, OP. 59: No. 2 Mutual guarantee (Apollon Nikoaievich Maikov) Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, Leonid Pavlovich Piatigorsky (conductor) [1:14]
29. Alexander Nikolaievich SCRIABIN (1872-1915): Romance (c. 1894) (composer) Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) rec. 1952 [1:27]
Nikolai Karlovich MEDTNER (1880-1951) - Berta Markovna Kozel (piano) rec. 1950s
30. Winterabend, Op. 13, No. 1 (Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin) [3:11]
31. When roses fade, Op. 36, No. 3 (Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin) [1:54]
32. Spanish Romance, Op. 36, No. 4 (Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin) [1:54]

CD 4 [70:34]
(All piano accompaniments by Berta Markova Kozel unless otherwise stated.) rec. 1950s

Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)  - Alexander Pavlovich Dolukhanian (piano) rec. 1948
1. Take my heart away (1873) [1:53]
2. Not a word, o my friend, Op. 6, No. 0 [2 3:1]
3. Both painfully and sweetly, Op. 6, No. 3 ("Bitter sweet", "Love’s beginning") [2:15]
4. The Cloud, Op. 27, No. 2 [3:23]
5. Do not leave me, Op. 27, No. 3 [2:29]
6. It was in early spring, Op. 38, No. 2 [2:43]
7. Darkness fell on the earth, Op. 47, No. 3 [4:42]
8. Sleep, unhappy friend, Op. 47, No. 4 [4:00]
9. Does the day reign?, Op. 47, No. 6 [3:13]
10. Tell me what you are thinking, Op. 57, No. 1 [3:51]
11. Do not ask, Op. 57, No.3 [3:09]
12. The first meeting, Op. 63, No. 4 [1:29]
13. The fires in the room were already extinguished, Op. 63, No. 5 [2:33]
14. Serenade, Op. 63, No. 6 ("O Child, beneath thy window") [2:57]
15. Song of Zemfira (1866) ("Dreadful old Husband") [1:34]
16. Mezza notte (c.1860)  Alexander Pavlovich Dolukhanian (piano) rec. in Italian, 1948 [1:52]

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

17. Morning, Op. 4, No. 2 ("I love you so") rec. 1949 [2:26]
18. The Water-lily, Op. 8, No. 1 (rec. 1951) [1:40]
19. Prayer, Op. 8, No. 6 ("O my God") Alexander P. Dolukhanian (piano) rec. 1948 [3:30]
20. Midsummer nights, Op. 14, No. 5 (rec. 1951) [1:40]
21. Do not regret me, Op. 14, No. 8 (rec. 1949) [3:27]
22. The Answer, Op. 21, No. 4 (rec. 1949) [1:41]
23. Lilacs, Op. 21, No. 5 (rec. 1948-53) [1:48]
24. The Muse, Op. 34, No. 1 (rec. 1952) [3:41]
25. A Dream, Op. 38, No. 5 ("There is nothing in the world") rec. 1953 [3:20]

Zara Dolukhanova was born in Moscow in 1918. Her parents, both musical, were Armenian and named her Zaruhi and encouraged her in her studies. These began first as a pianist and then at the age of twelve as a violinist before she found her true vocation as a singer. Her debut came in 1939 and she learned her craft slowly in a provincial opera house, though she was never to become reconciled to the operatic world and after 1944 she never sang on stage (though she made a number of discs of operatic arias and indeed some complete operas in the years following the end of WW2 when she was a soloist with the All-Union Radio). She performed much of the contemporary Soviet literature – Miaskovsky, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev, certainly, but also Gavrilin, Taliverdiev and Sviridov and the music of many Armenian composers. She toured widely, recorded, received awards and honours and then late in her forties emerged as a soprano.

Guild’s excellent four CD set reflects this career choice faithfully. We do get some opera but very little. The bulk of the set is devoted to her song recordings – and they prove to be rather more eclectic than most people had imagined. Alongside her Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky (of course) we have Schubert and Schumann and also her Aria Antiche, powerfully and expressively sung. But there is also her Britten, de Falla and Ravel to balance the well known with the discographically more obscure.

The whole set of four discs is in fact something of a voyage of discovery into the art of this superb mezzo. Though she is indeed full of expression in the Aria Antiche there is no over emoting and as was the case of her famous recordings of Bach and Handel (none presented here) she is technically and tonally at an exceptional level. True the orchestra is recorded muddily but the voice itself is forward and strong, lightening magically in the Pergolesi and raptly soft in the famous Giordani. The first disc is shared with her Mozart–sterling runs in 'Exsultate Jubilate', again with Barshai’s orchestral support. The coloratura is impelled with striking accuracy here, the voice itself taken on an appositely darker shade when required. It’s a shame one of her regular accompanists, Berta Kozel, was saddled with such a ropey piano in 'Ridente la calma' but her Mozart is very persuasive, even if her soprano partner Galina Sakharova is inclined to be a bit shrill in their duet from Così fan Tutte . She was a famous Rossinian and the two examples here from Soirées Musicales are apt reminders of her eminence in the repertoire, splendidly partnered by a much better soprano, Nadezhda Kazantseva. In the Beethoven she has luxury casting; two members of the Borodin Quartet, Dubinsky and Berlinsky, who joined pianist Alexander Yerokhin.

Disc Two is Schumann, Schubert, Liszt and a few others. Frauenliebe und –leben is sung, as almost everything else, in Russian. One can hear something Ferrier-like in the middle and lower registers of her voice, strikingly so in Seit ich ihn gesehen, but the colour and eagerness of expression she imparts to Ich kann’s nicht fassen are admirable as is her quickening vibrato in Helft mir, ihr Schwestern and the richly coloured lower voice in the last song, Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan. This was recorded c.1953 and like all the items in the set derives from tape copies made many years ago. I can only assume it’s the old tape that accounts for the pitch distortion in the postlude of this, of all, songs – it’s an unhappy moment and something should have been done to mitigate it. Her Schubert is enlivened by subtle rubati (Die Forelle) and though her Ave Maria is awfully slow we can still appreciate the voice production even if the recording imparts an unwonted hardness to it. The remainder of this side is given over to lesser, though ever entertaining repertoire- she could lighten delightfully in Delibes and Bizet.

Her Ravel has the requisite histrionic projection and the notes, comprehensive and very informative ones by Larry Friedman, are honest about one of her less successful discs, the de Falla which is rather heavy and certainly can’t bear much comparison with the almost contemporaneous de los Angeles recording (though I must say I liked the way she floated the line in Nana). Wolf’s Der Rattenfänger has suffered a bit of a glitch – a repeated piano introduction – but what conversational wit she espouses in Seltsam ist Juanas Weise and when we reach her Richard Strauss we find similar virtues; rapture in Cäcilie, for example, which is superbly voiced. Her Britten, as promised, is from A Charm of Lullabies, which shows that Russian mezzos and sopranos were singing him before Vishnevskaya but it’s on her home soil that she is at her most notable. Most Russian singers have some Dargomyzhsky in their repertoire and Dolukhanova must have had her share because it was one of her tenets never to sing the same song twice in a city – even if she’d last sung it twenty years before. The one example of this composer’s work is quite delightful. Her Taneyev is equally impressive and though the recording is a bit distant, there’s a sense of curve and sweep to her Medtner (three little songs lasting in total seven minutes) that is both powerful and authentic (the composer was a famously driving and galvanizing pianist).

Appropriately Guild’s survey ends with Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, twin pillars of her song repertoire. There’s overwhelming gravity and depth to her singing of Not a word, o my friend and The Cloud and an eager tension thrills through the rolled piano chords of Does the day reign? The concentrated and controlled power and grief that is her recording of Do not ask are as impressive as anything in this last disc. And yet Rachmaninov’s Morning brings forth true simplicity and there’s some tiny, wistful vocalise in A Dream. These should certainly be in the collection of Russophile song collectors, without question.

At the time of writing Zara Dolukhanova is eighty-six. She teaches at her alma mater, the Gnessin Institute, and still lives in Moscow where she paints assiduously. I understand that this Guild set is offered at a reduced price; in which case there is no excuse to avoid the manifold pleasures of nearly five hours in her captivating, versatile company.

Jonathan Woolf

American Record Guide – July / August 2005


Handel, Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven, Liszt, Rossini, Schubert, Wolf, Brahms, Strauss, Ravel, Offenbach, Britten, Bizet, Falla, Saint-Saens, Delibes, Cardillo, Dargomyzhsky, Cui, Arensky, Taneyev, Scriabin, Medtner, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff

Guild 2281 [4CD] 4:58

Oboukhova (1886-1961), Archipova (b. 1925) and Dolukhanova (b. 1918) were undoubtedly among the foremost mezzo-sopranos of the past century and possibly the only three Russian mezzos to have impinged to any extent on the consciousness of music lovers in the West. Yet apart from a piece on Archipova in one of John Steane's books, it would appear that all have been largely ignored by even the most knowledgeable writers on the great singers of our age.

Certainly contributing to this neglect was the fact that Russian born singers of the period were largely confined to their native land. Oboukhova never sang outside Russia. Not until the early 50s did Dolukhanova tour occasionally for recitals abroad, though Archipova, the most ardently Communist, appeared to enjoy a degree of freedom denied the other two. If Oboukhova possessed the richest and most sumptuous voice, Archipova had greater power, steel, and versatility. But the smooth, vocal velvet of Dolukhanova's tones and supreme technical mastery encapsulated even greater versatility combined with a rare ability to empathize with her audience. Her London concerts are remembered as exceptional events by all fortunate enough to have been there. Few recitalists in my lifetime possessed her ability to mesmerize listeners into feeling they were the sole recipients of her song. That gift made her one of the most beloved of all Soviet singers, so that in her regular 1940s broadcasts on Russian radio she was able to introduce and popularize numerous new works by young composers – many of whom wrote music especially for her.

She was Moscow-born of musical parents, who ensured an early start for their daughter with piano and violin studies. Her vocal talent was speedily discovered and she made her debut in 1939, learning her craft slowly in provincial opera houses. Despite this operatic baptism, she was never happy in the theatre, and after 1944 most of her career was spent as a recitalist in concert halls or on the Russian radio. It was only comparatively late in life that she returned to the operatic stage.

Guild's issue, with one important exception, gives a fairly rounded survey of the artist's career. Unaccountably absent are excerpts from operas where she sang as soprano in her final years before the public. These included Norma, Butterfly , Tosca and Suor Angelica (in the Russian premiere). She recorded arias from Manon Lescaut , Suor Angelica , Aida and Otello as well as 'Beim Schlafengehen' and 'Im Abendrot' from Strauss's Four Last Songs, and apparently only the Otello has appeared on CD. Some or all of these would have completed the portrait of this exceptionally versatile and accomplished singer. This lacuna is particularly galling since the songs by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff that take up the whole of the final disc have almost all been available in other compilations. Nevertheless, Guild deserves credit for an attempt to avoid duplication, considering that around a dozen CDs by her have been issued over the past couple of decades.

The initial disc, following the once usual format of a recital, commences with some smoothly vocalized Arie Antiche . There is no sense here of dutiful obeisance to tradition but a masterly demonstration of the subtle use of rubato and nuance – and these old favorites emerge freshly minted. A Mozart group is notable for a particularly joyous ExsultateJubilate capped by admirably accurate fioriture in the final section. The duet from Cosi Fan Tutte is let down by the shrill Sakharova, but two Rossini duets with the sweeter-voiced Kazantseva are a delight and make one wish that the entire series of these Soirées Musicales had been recorded. But not even her considerable artistry can enliven a couple of Beethoven's settings of two Russian folksongs. An unusual Brahms duet, 'Vor der Tur' with Alexeievich, goes rather more winningly.

Disc 2 commences with Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben from 1953. The sound is slightly muddy but a marginal improvement on the original LP. Like most of the succeeding lieder, it is sung in Russian. This fails to dim a glowing performance, which radiates sincerity and a real understanding of the 19th Century female psyche-so vastly different from today's. How superbly she alters the tone color of the voice to suit the varied sentiments of each song. There is an added brightness and vibrancy for 'Helft mir ihr Schwestern' and grimly shadowed, deeper accents for the tragic final song, which is unfortunately marred by an odd-sounding and prosaic piano postlude. Her Schubert is for the most part utterly delightful, including a slow but sensationally long-phrased 'Du Bist die Rub'. Even slower is a German language 'Ave Maria', but the vocal line is drawn with such steadiness and instrumental-like legato that the overall effect is incredibly moving. A delightful Liszt group offers a memorable 'Oh Quand je Dors' and as seductive a 'Loreley' as one could possibly wish. A lighter side of the singer is revealed in winning performances of songs by Delibes, Bizet, and Cardillo; but an even greater freedom and playfulness would not have come amiss in a charming but oddly straight-laced 'Core 'ngrato'. Oboukhova could have shown her how to treat Neapolitan songs.

She is especially affecting and effective in Ravel's 'Kaddish', splendidly accompanied by Nina Svetlanova. After this it is difficult to enthuse over their performance of Falla's Seven Spanish Folk Songs , except to admire her bravery in tackling them at all and especially in the original language. This sounds quite unauthentic, and Svetlanova also seems very much out of her element; but there are compensations to be found in a couple of the slower songs, 'Nana' and 'Asturiana'. She should have spent some time listening to other readings – especially by the incomparable Supervia. In a winning Wolf group, she is far removed from the Schwarzkopf-Fischer-Dieskau approach. Her blithe, apparently artless singing attaches Wolf rather more firmly than usual to the great lieder composers who preceded him. What a shame that the engineer missed an unfortunate repeated introduction to 'Der Rattenfänger'.

The Strauss group is also almost wholly effective, the language problem seemingly even less intrusive than in the Wolf. 'Cäcilie' soars ecstatically, though both 'Traum durch die Dämmerung' and 'Morgen' are sung too loudly to make their best effect. Two songs from Britten's Charm of Lullabies reveal amusingly accented English. The fact that it is often incomprehensible must be partly blamed on the composer. Few native speakers could get these convoluted words across at the speed he has set them.

These fine Russian songs should be in the collections of all admirers of these composers and of great singing. Many other fine artists have tackled these songs, but few have attained such a consistently high level. Larry Friedman's excellent notes deal with all the material here, but he is particularly perceptive and informative on these final groups.

The transfers have, in the main, been well engineered. Sometimes the voice acquires a hardness and edge not heard in concert performances, and the opening Italian group sounds slightly muted compared with the original LP. Perhaps a two-disc issue would have served the purpose better here, since this is not quite as revelatory a set as Guild's prize-winning Vinogradov (Sept/Oct 2004). Nevertheless, it remains a splendid introduction to one of the 20th Century's great vocalists.

Vivian Liff

Fanfare August 2005

The Russian Legacy: Zara Dolukhanova.

Arias, duets, romances, and classical songs by:
Carissimi, Caldara, Conti, Pergolesi, P. Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, Dargomyzhsky, Rossini, Giordani, Niedermeyer, Verdi, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Liszt, Offenbach, Delibes, Bizet, Cardillo, Ravel, Wolf, R. Strauss, Britten, Cui, Taneyev, Arensky, Scriabin, and Medtner.

Zara Dolukhanova (mez); various accompaniments.

GUILD AAD GHCD 2281/4 (4 CDs; 297:20)

Zara Dolukhanova (1918 -     ) was one of the Soviet artists that attained an almost legendary status in the West in the 1960s.  That her recordings were nearly impossible to find only increased her reputation, lending it an air of mystery.  When the mystery gradually lifted years later, thanks to the occasional tour and an increase over time in Soviet LP distribution, the aura of something both distinctive and valuable remained.  Sadly, the fall of the Soviet Union has also put an end to its state-funded recording and distribution facilities, including the re-release of valued archival material.  An occasional Dolukhanova recording has resurfaced since then, but nothing on the scale of this latest 4-CD release, focusing upon her recordings of the late 1940s and 1950s.  It's not quite a broad retrospective, for reasons that I'll explain later, but it is as close to one as has ever been attempted.

A key element of Dolukhanova's success was the memorable sound of her voice.  It was a dark mezzo, reflecting her contralto origins, but retaining that coloration evenly throughout its wide range.  From personal accounts I gather it wasn't a large voice when heard live, but it was sufficient for piano-accompanied recitals and radio use, which was what mattered.  It was also a beautiful instrument with a unforgettably mournful, delicate sound, ready-made for those endless scores of Russian romances whose emotional clock was invariably set to the soul's midnight of depression.

There's no question Dolukhanova was very fine in this material, as more than a CD's worth of this set demonstrates.  Medtner's "When roses fade" (oddly enough, original language titles are provided for all the songs except those in Russian) is as intimately and variously shaded and graceful as anyone could desire; while the mezzo delivers Cui's serene "Evening glow" with a conviction borne of a great executive talent, one in complete control of all its resources.  Her innately melancholy tone perfectly complements the sixteen included songs of Tchaikovsky, but she lacks the velvet required for the ideal Rachmaninoff voice.  Still, Dolukhanova delivers powerful, emotionally varied readings in nine numbers that include "The Prayer," op. 8/6, "Lilacs," op. 21/5, and "A Dream," op. 38/5.  To the other side, there's a brief, impishly lighthearted piece by Arensky called "Mutual Guarantee," which Dolukhanova delivers with understated charm and a great deal of face.  

If the sheer sound of the voice was unforgettable in the best way possible, its lyrical deployment was every bit as good.  In Conti's 'Quella fiamma che m'accende' she makes room for turns, phrases imaginatively, and shifts her dynamics to match the emotional content of the text; but the greatest satisfaction is derived from hearing the way her voice glides smoothly, effortlessly, at a moderate tempo.  As much can be said for her treatment of 'Ridente la calma', attributed to both Mozart and his friend, Josef Myslivecek.  It's a deceptively simple piece, but requires each note to be given its full value under the spotlight.  Some of Dolukhanova's slurs would draw a raised eyebrow today, but she sings with a wonderfully even, unpressurized tone, and a fine sense of line.  The greater dramatics of Mozart's 'Als Luise die Briefe' confirm this impression, with an added touch of bloom on the voice as Dolukhanova encompasses its greater dramatic values.

Bringing up Conti and Dolukhanova's arie antiche recordings automatically raises the question of authenticity in Baroque music.  There can be no question that this material is treated anachronistically here, just as it was in the 1930s by Beniamino Gigli: lack of major embellishments, string-heavy orchestrations, etc.  But whereas Gigli viewed it all with affectionate sentimentality, Dolukhanova is more emotionally restrained.  In this respect she more closely resembles the British school of oratorio singing from the 1920s and 1930s, as exemplified by the likes of Walter Widdop, rather than many of the Romantically influenced Germans and Italians of her period, who indulged their need for 19th century theatrics.  There is a musical scrupulousness to Dolukhanova work in this respect that bespeaks an artist of integrity, in whatever age 

As the Mozart and arie antiche indicate, Dolukhanova's tastes were unusually broad for a Soviet recitalist.  She also recorded several songs by Robert Schumann; and after the surprise of the Russian language, her interpretations come across as attractive and relatively idiomatic.  The varying faces she brings to 'Du Ring an meinem Finger' display a level of ease with the German classical repertoire that Vinogradov lacks.  The opening to 'Süsser Freund, du blickest' lingers exquisitely, without ever losing its way.  The rest of that song has a softly glowing, inner warmth not usually associated with Russian sopranos and mezzos.  Her half-tones in 'Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan' have an eerily rapt quality which recalls Khovanshchina's Marfa rather than Schumann's maid; still, it's highly effective.  In Schubert's 'Die Forelle', Dolukhanova's trout swims too swiftly, but her 'Ave Maria' (sung in German) strikes just the right pace and proceeds with a legato line, rich tone, and elegant restraint.  

The list of Dolukhanova's vocal flaws on record is short.  Her few trills tend to degenerate into a forced vibrato, which in Dolukhanova's case, they probably always had been.  Occasionally, she slurs an interval, as noted above, but with about the same frequency as Schipa sobs – which is to say, hardly at all, and probably at gunpoint.  There are also instances where she audibly runs out of breath, as she does once in Mozart's 'An Chloë'; but the delicate turns and movement of the voice in this piece are an unfailing delight.  (And at other times, as in a Russian language version of Bizet's 'Douce mer', she spins out her breath in such a magical fashion, with evocative phrasing, that it turns a charming but slender song into a lambent jewel.)  Tempos sometimes edge towards the frantic, but that's as much a matter of contemporary understanding in the Soviet for 19th century and 18th century non-Russian music, where scholarship on these matters often lagged as much as forty years or more behind the West. 

The worst that can be said of Dulokhanova is that she sounds too reticent at times in music that calls for vibrant commitment, as though hesitant to commit her full emotional and verbal resources to a piece; and this is most noticeable in opera.  That this isn't a linguistic issue is clear from many selections in this fine set.  Her Latin in Verdi's 'Ave Maria' and her Italian and German, elsewhere, are competent to good.  She generally emphasizes the proper syllables, articulates consonants correctly, and enunciates vowels that seldom shade over to Slavic diphthongs.  She sounds comfortable and confident in these languages in a manner that many of her colleagues, including such a superb recitalist as her friend, baritone Pavel Lisitsian, never quite managed.  

No, the problem would appear to be related to her performance background.  Like Georgi Vinogradov, if  not quite to the same extent, Dolukhanova performed little live opera.  She sang mainly secondary roles as a contralto in Yerevan's Spendiarov Opera and Ballet company from 1939 to 1944, then had a very short and undistinguished engagement at the Bolshoi.  Whatever the reasons for that (and the lengthy, excellent liner notes by Larry Friedman are quiet on this point), Dolukhanova then worked her voice into the mezzo range, and spent her subsequent public career entirely on the recital stage and as a soloist for All-Union Radio.  

(In her forties, Dolukhanova decided to move her range upwards again, and become a dramatic soprano.  Those recital accounts I've heard suggest this wasn't successful, but the only recording I have of hers in this fach is as soloist in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 14.  As that was made in 1976, the deterioration of her voice could just as easily be due to any number of other factors.)

One of the opera selections on this release demonstrates all too obviously her limitations in this vein.  It's a duet from Act 2 of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann , with Ivan Kozlovsky.  While the husky, white coloration of Kozlovsky's voice will alienate some, his incandescent fervor, vocal production and word painting (apparent even in Russian) ultimately wins through.  His is a magnificent reading, particularly of 'O Dieu!' 'De quelle ivresse.  'The tenor never upstages his colleague and scales down his voice to match hers when singing together, but Dolukhanova sounds emotionally cool and vocally tentative in comparison.  Perhaps that's the reason this new 4-CD set has only one other "modern" (as in non-Baroque) operatic selection to offer.  

Curiously, it's from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte , rather than the mezzo's celebrated complete recordings of Rossini's La Cenerentola and L'italiana in Algeri .  Both of these lack a measure of the flexibility and dramatic variety of modern Rossini recordings, much less an understanding of style that has grown through the years; but they have spirit, beauty and great facility at coloratura.  I'm surprised something wasn't chosen from these once-popular releases which continued to sell in Europe and the US until LPs gave way to compact disks.)

But there's plenty to enjoy here without opera: a treasure trove of songs that demonstrate a naturally attractive voice, well-trained and fluent, used with intelligence and rare skill.  Listen to how she floats the opening phrases of Verdi's Ave Maria, for instance, and takes the sudden, brief flight upwards with unaffected but devastating simplicity.  Or try Strauss' 'Heimliche Aufforderung' for its fearless passion, and Gebet (in Russian, from 1952) for sensuous yearning.  The music is by Liszt, but the singer's persona could be Konchakovna out of Borodin's Prince Igor ; and it works, too.  

Sound quality is extremely variable, as in the previous set of this series.  There are occasional knocks that could have come from defective equipment, and a very few selections (such as 'Ridente la calma') sport many poorly made tape splices.  The first piano chord in Schumann's 'Seit ich ihn gesehen' runs up to a pitch, indicating a sloppy transfer from originals to tape.  Several selections were never equalized for the RIAA curve, which became a standard in Western Europe and the US but not in the Soviet; consequently, 'Exultate, jubilate' (not Exsultate, as written in the notes) lacks mid-range, and sounds both tinny and bass heavy.  Finally, Dolukhanova's voice in 'Oh, guarda sorella' (from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte ) sounds brighter, the vibrato slightly quicker, than in other selections, here; and the recording runs a quarter tone higher than several other versions of the full opera that I possess.

That said, I have no hesitation in recommending this release.  Zara Dolukhanova's recorded output is a cherishable legacy, one of the most distinctive from a period of great music-making in the Soviet Union.  It's good to see such attention being paid to an neglected artist of this stature.

Barry Brenesal

MusicWeb – August 2004

Zara Alexandrovna DOLUKHANOVA (mezzo) - born 1918
Lieder, Songs, Arias and Duets

The extensive booklet notes which run from p. 9 to p. 33 take the reader through Zara Dolukhanova’s biographical details. This is followed by a commentary by Larry Friedman on the contents of these four CDs.

Born in Moscow of Armenian parents she made her debut in 1939 at age 21 as Siebel (Faust). This was just as the thunder of guns was coming to dominate Europe, and Russia in particular, for the second time in little over a generation. In 1948 Dolukhanova became a soloist for the All Russian Radio remaining there for six years before taking a like position with the Moscow Philharmonic Society. During these periods she honed her skills in a wide range of Russian songs. These can be heard on the second part of CD 3 and the whole of CD 4. In 1951 there was the award of the Stalin Prize after which she gave many guest performances abroad. The guest performances took her to thirty different countries and perhaps stimulated her desire to sing in a wide variety of different languages although her reputation was first and foremost as an interpreter of Russian and Soviet composers. Dolukhanova aroused wide interest and enthusiasm at her New York debut in May 1959. In her forties the singer, unusually, changed her fach upwards to soprano and took on lyrico-dramatic roles such as Norma , Aida , Tosca and Butterfly . In 1969 she sang Puccini’s 'Suor Angelica' at the work’s Russian premiere. Now, in her mid-eighties, she teaches at the Gnessin Russian Musical Academy.

These four discs cover a wide diversity of repertoire and languages. The opening Arie Antiche (CD 1 trs. 1-6) start well (tr. 1) with Dolukhanova exhibiting a full-toned creamy mezzo voice in a well recorded natural acoustic. She sings this aria with smooth legato and expression although her good Italian has an unmistakable Slavic production. The slower tempo of the second piece, in which she adopts a hollow tone, stretches her legato at times. In the well-known 'Caro mio ben' (tr. 4) the conductor’s tempi are far too slow for my taste but the singer comfortably encompasses the bars of higher tessitura. As indicated these arias are sung in the original Italian. The following two pieces, Verdi’s 'Ave Maria' (tr. 7) and Mozart’s 'Exultate jubilate' (tr. 8) are sung in Latin and leave entirely different impressions one with the other. The Verdi, with its echoes of Desdemona’s prayer in act 4 of Otello , is sung with a good variety of expression and tone; a very satisfying rendition. The Mozart on the other hand leaves me flummoxed. Dolukhanova adopts a light girlish tone depriving the voice of substance. This is a soprano coloratura aria. Her coloratura is sketchy and her interpretation stylistically idiosyncratic. My ear finds the same stylistic faults in the succeeding Mozart arias (trs 9-12) and the extract from Cosi (tr. 13). The Russian language doesn’t help interpretation here even in those pieces composed to a German text.

In the lieder of Schumann and Schubert (CD 2 trs. 1-14) Dolukhanova brings excellent tonal control and expression with the Russian being less of a problem. Stylistically the piano accompaniment is appropriate and this contributes to the satisfactory realisation of the songs in a language other than the original. I found 'Seit ich' (tr. 1) and the brio she brings to 'Wohin' (tr. 12) particularly appealing. The excerpts of French origin (trs. 19-21) suffer from the language problem, which should not hide the fact that Dolukhanova could gainfully have brought richer tone to Giulietta’s contribution to the Hoffmann duet (tr. 19). To compensate, her 'Core ’ngato' is heartfelt, expressive and vocally appealing.

The third disc starts (tr. 1) with the haunting Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. Here Dolukhanova’s even tone adds to the effect. In the vibrant rhythmics of the first two of de Falla’s eight popular Spanish songs (trs. 2 and 3) only the singer’s accent detracts from complete enjoyment of her tone, expression and interpretation. The more contemplative 'Asturiana' (tr. 4) is particularly well sung with a variety of vocal colour. Dolukhanova’s use of colour and expression in the Wolf songs (trs. 9-13), and with the Russian sound less intrusive, is also impressive. The voice here is set a little further back on the sound-stage than in the previous extracts. The Strauss songs (trs. 14-19) are accompanied by the piano. She sings 'Morgen' (tr. 17) with clear tone and smooth legato. If I miss the nuances of Schwarzkopf or Norman, with orchestral support, it is may be my familiarity with the compositional language in those recordings more than the singer’s limitations here. There is no such reservation in respect of the final tracks (23-32) of this disc and the whole of CD 4. It is these tracks, which, above all, will justify the purchase of this issue. This is the repertoire that Dolukhanova performed regularly on radio and took on her foreign tours. On all these 35 tracks we can hear a consummate artist in her specialist field.

Although in the recording notes (p.34) Richard Caniell makes apology for some print through and deficient signal to noise ratio, prospective purchasers need not worry. The sound is eminently presentable with Dolukhanova’s voice always well caught in a clear acoustic. Despite some idiosyncrasies of style in the Mozart and the predominance of the Russian language this diverse collection should appeal to all lovers of singing. Whether out in the market-place other than specialist collectors will buy into 4 CDs of a relatively unknown singer remains to be seen. A two-disc issue of the Russian songs together with a sample of Dolukhanova’s Schubert, Schumann and Wolf might have had more appeal.

Robert J Farr

International Record Review - September 2004

by John T Hughes
Lieder, Songs and Duets
Zara Dolukhanova

The concert platform

Dolukhanova's stage-career was short: she felt that the concert platform was her metier, together with broadcasts. She became a soloist with the All-Union Radio in 1948, and her few recordings of complete operas came from the six years which she spent with that organization. Opera is not the basis of Guild's issue. For a collection of her operatic arias one might try Preiser 89066 or Russian Dise RDCD15023 (if the latter is still available). Although some titles are duplicated, actual performances are different. Guild does include two operatic duets: 'Ah, guarda sorella' (Cosi fan tutte) with Galina Sakharova and '0 Dieu! de quelle ivresse' from Les Contes d’hoffrnann with Ivan Kozlovsky, the 78 of which was one of the earliest examples of both artists in my collection (024305/6). Two operatic arias by Handel and two Bach arias which shared an LP (Artia ALP169 in Britain) with six arie antiche are excluded, though the six are on the first disc. I loved the LP and played it frequently. All six arias dislay Dolukhanova's ease of vocal production and sheer beauty of tone. In his informative essay in the booklet, Larry  Friedman notes her 'especially wonderful' line in Caldara's 'Come raggio del sol'.

Neglected by western critics

Guild's CDs carry 97 tracks, so you will not expect me (1 hope) to mention each one. It is ironic that in the two volumes of Song on Record (Cambridge University Press; 1986 and 1988), Dolukhanova's name appears only once in the second book, and then not in Russian song but in Falla's Siete Canciones populares espñiolas, from Elenrecord ECE0128, which is not among her best recordings. Guild includes it. Volume 1 contains two references to her, both in the chapter on Liszt by that erudite critic Will Crutchfield. It would seem, therefore, that this excellent singer has not received her due from critics in the West (though her operatic selections receive more attention in the Opera on Record books), so one hopes that these CDs will help to overcome her neglect.

I have most of the items on LP, comparison with which suggests that Guild has closed the sound somewhat, reducing upper frequencies, thus muting some of the impact. A touch more treble on playback helps, but nothing precludes the pleasure created by the singing. Richard Caniell confesses that 'many of the original recordings were transferred to tape decades ago'. Tut, tut! This is still an admirable, valuable and desirable set.

Mozart, Schumann and Schubert

Mozart's Exsultate, jubilate is unusual territory for a mezzo or contralto, but Dolukhanova's lightness of touch and flexibility in divisions are just right for the expression of exultation and jubilation. As with the arie antiche, Rudolf Barshai's Moscow Chamber Orchestra provides fine support, but the sound fluctuates occasionally. Four Mozart songs also receive fresh treatment, and here we meet the pianism of Berta Kozel, who is the main accompanist. Two pieces from Rossini's Soirées musicales find Dolukhanova's voice sitting very well with that of Nadezhda Kazantseva: gorgeous duetting.

Most of the second disc is devoted to Schumann and Schubert, beginning with the formers Frauenliebe und -leben in Russian, expressively sung, with Dolukhanova finding varied but complementary vocal hues. Note: the darker tone she employs for the final song as against the brighter one for 'Helft nür, ihr Schwestern'. Again Kozel is the pianist, as in six Schubert Lieder, among which is a slow, almost mesmeric Du bist die Ruh (rather harsh sound). Listeners interested in technique  should enjoy this and Ave Maria, elegantly sculpted over 6'11”

Liszt and Leider

The first of the four Liszt songs is announced in the booklet as Gebet, S331; it is Ihr Glocken von Marling, S328. Then comes Oh, quandje dors. Sublime. Crutchfield encapsulates it so well (as expected) when he describes the 'very individual, glamorous tone and atmospheric style (dreamy on the grace notes)'. The second CD ends with a switch in direction. Two French songs (Delibes's Bonjour, Suzon and Bizet's Douce mer) are simply and delightfully done before we hear Cardillo's Core 'ngrato. Now, that is virtually exclusively tenor territory: even baritones look both ways first, but a woman?! It may be too subtle for those who want only decibel-emitting tenors. Also here is the Hoffmann duet with Kozlovsky, which inds both singers building to a passionate climax: a Giulietta and Hoffinann mutually smitten.

A problem arises when one is enjoying the record one is reviewing: the urge to linger, to savour and, Oliver Twist-like, to ask for more, but I must press on. The third CD has five Wolf songs and six by Strauss, again in Russian, again with Berta Kozel. The mechanical error at the start of Der Rattenfänger should have been corrected. Verborgenheit finds Dolukhanova caressing the line, and the tenderness broght to Allerseelen is soothing balm.

Russian songs

After two Britten songs from A Charm of Lullabies, in English, Russia steps in. Three by Cui are not often heard. Dolukhanova's gentle singing of 'Evening Glow' reflects the title, while 'Lilacs quickly fading here', Op. 54 No. 5, has a touch of wistfulness, which this singer cm convey so memorably. Sakharova returns for two pretty little duets (Dargomyzhsky, Tchaikovsky). What seems to be the earliest recording (1947), Taneycv's Let it sound no more, with Alexander Dolukhanian (the singer's husband) at the piano, presents yet another piece of fine singing, but then notice how the lady reduces her tone for one of Arensky's Children's Songs, Op. 59.

Sixteen songs by Tchaikovsky and nine by Rachmaninov occupy the last CD.

These are virtually self-recommending, but some particularly appealed to me. Of the Tchaikovsky, Not a word, O my friend shows the darker colouring in Dolukhanova's voice, and her reading is brooding, almost introspective. Those dark shades are employed in Sleep, unhappy friend too, to telling effect.

An eagerness, the singer radiant, inhabits Does the day reign?. The wide range, both vocal and emotional, covered in Do not ask creates what is almost an operatic aria, yet Dolukhanova encompasses all with seeming ease. She and Kozel catch well the lilt in O child, beneath thy window. The Rachmaninov selection includes a thoughtful interpretation of 'A Prayer', Op. 8 No. 6. The Answer is notable for a couple of beautifully placed mezza voce high notes, and the singing of Lilacs is delectable.

Cynics, including me sometimes, suggest that Russian songs deal only with love, death and melancholy. Certainly those we tend to hear in the concert-hall are predominantly slow. Virtually nothing in this collection demonstrates Dolukhanova's ability in florid music, but her poise, her musicality, her phrasing, her smooth delivery and, not least, her lovely voice are heard here in track after track.

This set is offered at an enticingly low price: vocal gold for a few pennies, one might say. This is a worthy successor to the Georgi Vinogradov compilation which I reviewed in January 2004. A week before I began this review the Armenian baritone Pavel Lisitsian died at 92. He was married to Zara Dolukhanova's sister. Perhaps Mr Caniell, Mr Friedman and Guild will honour one of the most beautiful baritone voices on record.

(Guild GHCD2281-4,
four discs, 4 hours 57 minutes).

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