Reviews

GHCD 2281/82/83/84 – ZARA DOLUKHANOVA – Lieder, Songs, Arias and Duets

Zara Dolukhanova, Various Accompaniments

To the CD in our Shop


Fanfare September/October 2005

Zara Dolukhanova (b. 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 statefunded recording and distribution facilities, including the re-release of valued archival material. An occasional Dolukhanova recording has resurfaced since then, but nothing an the scale of this latest four-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 dose 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 an unforgettably mournful, delicate sound-ready-made for those endless Scores of Russian romances whose emotional dock 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 Gould desire, while the mezzo delivers Cui’s serene Evening glow with a conviction borne here satisfactory, the performance is somewhat marred by the pleasant-voiced but often unsteady baritone of Markus Köhler, who marks time serviceably through the work with only a few glimmers of interpretive insight, and too many moments where he drifts beneath pitch, sagging especially in his tenor-like upper registers. It is the sort of thing one used to expect from premiere recordings, a mere suggestion of the possibilities that a finer performance might tease out of the composition. Still, the stylistic collisions of this work, in which Wetz sheds the fin-de-siècle style of his youth for a retrenched conservatism that he did not yet wear comfortably, presents serious interpretive difficulties. In discussing its collisions of text imagery and musical purpose, Eckhardt van den Hoogen suggests in the booklet notes that this was a necessary work, that Wetz’s encounter with Hölderlin’s text would prepare him for the kind of affective complexity he Gould successfully assay in the Violin Concerto. He does not, however, make this connection clear to the reader. He also argues laboriously that its stylistic confusion and expressive misfirings make Hyperion “not a bad work,” hardly a ringing endorsement.

Highly reeommended, then, for a strong performance of a valuable and unfamiliar violin concerto. The choral works will likely remain space-filling curiosities.
Christopher Williams


Fanfare August 05

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, Dulukhanova’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 Thursday September 09 04

The manifold pleasures of nearly five hours in the captivating, versatile company of Zara Dolukhanova …

Zarah 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


MusicWeb Friday August 27 04

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. …
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 04

So many are included; so many remain. Guild’s four-CD selection of the splendid mezzo-soprano Zara Dolukhanova (born in Moscow in 1918 of Armenian parents) is concerned almost entirely with songs: songs from different times and diverse places, the largest number being from her homeland, mostly recorded in the 1950s.
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 Schuhmann 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 duet ting.

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 Lieder

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, 0 my friend shows the darker colourinng 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 0 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.

Guild’s website (www.gufldmusic.com) is offering this set 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 1 reviewed in January 2004. A week before 1 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).