Dmitri Shostakovich – Songs and Waltzes
Sergei Leiferkus, baritone
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Thomas Sanderling, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2006
Tracklist and more details
The present collection of Shostakovich’s Songs and Waltzes was released for the centenary of the birth of the composer. It features two excellent performers as baritone Sergei Leiferkus and conductor Thomas Sangerling.
Songs and Waltzes: the Programme
The album opens with The four verses of captain Lebyadkin, written by Shostakovich less than a year before his death, a work inspired by Dostoevsky’s novel The Devils, which is enough to sense the psychological disorder that this music expresses. The next cycle is Satires. Pictures of the past, dedicated to Galina Vishnevskaya and whose verses are bitterly ironic, as in the case of The Awakening of Spring, which in the end reveals its paradox. The next pieces are Five Romances on words from Krokodil magazine and the world premiere recording of Op. 123, Preface to the Complete Edition of My Works and a Brief Reflection Apropos this Preface.
Boris Tishchenko, who is Shostakovich’s student, orchestrated the songs.
The Waltzes from film music complete the programme.
Songs and Waltzes: the Performance
Although Sergei Leiferkus’s voice is not pure and beautiful in the “classical” way, it has its own special magnetism and dramatic strength and, for its colour, it seems perfectly suitable to Shostakovich’s songs. Even though Leiferkus’s diction is perfectly clear and his accents and inflexions are measured specifically to emphasize the meaning of the words (which play such an important role in the rendition of the songs), there is something that is naturally sharp in his voice and it is this feature that reveals Shostakovich’s sarcasm better than anything else.
This, together with Leiferkus’s sound technique, makes possible for the baritone to depict a wide range of situations and feelings, from resentment, to mockery, to disillusion. It seems that this recording is trying to explore all the sadness and feelings of indignation of a human soul. Above all, in fact, there is a constant sense of bitterness that provides the guiding thread among all the songs and that Leiferkus expresses with absolute unaffectedness.
The approach to the songs of conductor Thomas Sanderling is aggressive. While Leiferkus focuses on subtle psychological implications of Shostakovich’s music, Sanderling characterizes it with unrelenting energy, giving prominence to the fierce criticism of these works. The Russian Philharmonic Orchestra plays superbly. The orchestral colours are accentuated to the utmost, conveying the idea of abrupt breaks, outbursts and of everything that creates disagreement and discord.
The Waltzes lead us to a completely different world. Here, the colours are softer and the melodies more harmonious – one might say – more conventional. The impression of salon elegance is finely conveyed and the grace of the eight Waltzes appears as a quiet ending after so much trouble.