Though begun in 1975, Georgy Sviridov's vocal "poem," Petersburg, was completed specifically for Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Mikhail Arkadiev in 1995, and this recording makes it is easy to understand why. Performances of such alchemic beauty and expressive weight only come from the perfect union of music and musicians. Sviridov is the big winner in this situation. Admired and highly decorated during the Soviet era, and creator of a large and impressive body of vocal music, he is still relatively unknown to western audiences. Here, in both Petersburg and the Romances (6) of Pushkin that round out the disc, they can discover a masterful composer who infused his songs with all the lyricism and emotional immediacy of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky while maintaining a distinctly modern voice. No two songs on the album are alike, and yet all speak with one voice. Most importantly, each one grows organically from its poem, turning the cadence of the Russian language into the seeds of melody. Hvorostovsky is at his best, both vocally and interpretively. His distinctively dark, yet brilliant, timbre, his seamless approach to line and legato, and the intensity and range of his expression bring out the best in every song.
Valery Gergiev directs the Kirov Opera and Ballet in this dramatic staging of Tchaikovsky’s historical opera, based on Pushkin’s verse tale of the legendary Cossack chieftain. Tchaikovsky’s dark musical setting intertwines the political drama of Mazeppa’s ill-fated betrayal of the Tsar with the personal tragedy of his love for Maria, the young daughter of his hapless opponent, Kocubej.