Shostakovich - 7 Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok - From Jewish Folk Poetry (Cycle of 11 Songs)
Shostakovich - 7 Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok, Op. 127 (1967) for Soprano, Violin, Violoncello and Piano - From Jewish Folk Poetry, Op. 79 (1948) - Nina Dorlyak, Soprano / Zara Dolukhanova, Mezzo-Soprano / Alexei Masslenikov, Tenor / Dmitri Shostakovich, Piano
The song cycle of 7 Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok was completed 1967 in hospital while Shostakovich was recovering from a heart attack - and arguably one of the greatest vocal compositions of the 20th century. It is given a very powerful performance here by four leading German artists (in a live performance broadcast 2004 on German radio with very good sound and no audience noise - details in the accompanying text document). If this music alone is sometimes almost overwhelming in its impact (it is also a highly autobiographical work) - it is even more so when Blok's texts are absorbed along with the music. Therefore, I've included the complete song texts with the lines arranged in the order: ENGLISH - ORIGINAL RUSSIAN (CYRILLIC) - TRANSLITERATED RUSSIAN. This makes it very easy to follow the music and the texts simultaneously - that is, of course, for non-Russian speakers with a reasonable command of English. (These texts, by the way, were kindly provided in this well-done form by singer / voice teacher Celeste Emmons Jamerson at her internet home page - and my thanks go out to her for this great service.)
The 1950s recording of From Jewish Folk Poetry (with good, clear sound) is taken from a Monitor disc from the 1960s. The soprano Nina Dorlyak (and the wife of Sviatoslav Richter), mezzo-soprano Zara Dolukhanova and tenor Alexei Masslenikov perform here; the composer is at the piano (Dorlyak played a considerable role in the inception of this cycle of 11 songs from 1948). Also included is a scan of the song text summaries from the original Monitor jacket plus a 1956 photo of a public performance of the work.
Jewish music was of great importance for Shostakovich and plays a considerable role in number of his major compositions. In his memoirs, Shostakovich makes these brief observations: "I think, if we speak of musical impressions, that jewish music has made a most powerful impression on me. I never tire of delighting in it; it's multifaceted, it can appear to be happy while it is tragic. It's almost always laughter through tears." This recording belongs in the collection of everyone who loves the music of Shostakovich.
LP transfer of material issued c.mid-1960s (Monitor label); radio broadcast