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On CD: Netrebko's Russian art songs

by Joe Banno

As soprano Anna Netrebko’s career has blossomed on the operatic stage, so has her voice. What was once a middleweight instrument can now easily fill the Met. Its center of gravity is lower and richer than it once was, its vibrato fuller and slightly more pronounced, its capacity for large-scale emotional expression greater.

Anna Netrebko shows her mettle as a recitalist with her new album of Russian songs (available from

None of these opera-worthy virtues suggest a natural career as a recitalist. But as can be heard on her new Deutsche Grammophon CD of art songs by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky, “In the Still of the Night” (00289 477 8867), she’s vividly communicative in this more intimate medium. Recorded at the 2009 Salzburg Festival, with pianist Daniel Barenboim capturing the teasing allure of the Rimsky material and the more rhapsodic welling-up of feeling in the Tchaikovsky, Netrebko delivers her accustomed refulgent tone in many of the songs. (Indeed, in her exuberant reading, Rimsky’s “The lark’s song rings more clearly” could well be the anthem of some youth brigade.)
(read more after the jump)

But listen to her tenderness in Tchaikovsky’s “The Nymph” or her rapt delivery of Rimsky’s “On Georgia’s Hills”, and you’ll hear her artistry at its subtlest and most seductive. And the erotic frankness of Rimsky’s “Dream on a Summer’s Night”, and love-drunk yearning in Tchaikovsky’s “Amidst gloomy days” play keenly into her talents as a singing actress. But what sets the seal on this CD as a significant recording of oft-neglected repertoire is the hand-in-glove fit of this material with the smoldering tone and Slavic melancholy in Netrebko’s voice.

--Joe Banno

Other views: The Telegraph, The Sunday Times (England), The Star (Toronto).

By Anne Midgette  |  May 12, 2010; 6:02 AM ET
Categories:  CD reviews  
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