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Richard A. Kaplan
Fanfare, August 2008

Some listeners might find Kazarnovskaya’s vibrato a bit too broad at higher dynamic levels, but for the most part she sings quite accurately and conveys sensitively and without resorting to caricature the admittedly limited emotional range of the texts, most of which deal with romantic love, particularly lost or unrequited. … More than a few of the songs are clearly designed for male singers, but that’s an adjustment one always has to make in the case of an edition such as this one. Accompanist Orfenova is as much an equal partner as the fairly limited piano parts allow; her postludes, a common characteristic of these songs, are almost always sensitive musical summations. The recorded sound is attractive, avoiding the common error in this repertoire of over-miking the singer. The songs themselves are, not surprisingly, melodious if somewhat salonish; in general, though, I find them a cut above much of Tchaikovsky’s solo piano music. The expressive range, however, is somewhat limited, so I doubt I’ll ever listen to the whole set in a single day, let alone a single sitting.

Finally, Naxos offers program notes that are almost adequate in the absence of texts and translations—perhaps the most serious flaw in this production (aside from the two missing songs). Texts are easily available as downloads from Naxos’s Web site, but I printed out a total of 20 pages (Russian transliteration and English translation), which I will store I have no idea where. At least Volumes 1–3 included texts in the booklets.

If you’re a Tchaikovsky completist like me or a song specialist, this is the only game in town for now. …Perhaps, as so frequently seems to happen, now that Naxos has finally broken the ice, another, stronger complete version of the songs will come along shortly. Meanwhile, this is a series you can live with.

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, March 2008

"This series of Tchaikovsky’s complete songs has been long in the making. The first three volumes arrived in the late 1990s and early 2000s but since then there has been a gap of almost seven years. I hadn’t heard the previous issues and was eagerly looking forward to savouring these twenty-two songs, few of them very well-known. Tchaikovsky wrote more than one hundred songs and only a handful can be regarded as standards. The musical level is constantly high, even though he is much more limited in scope than, say, Schubert, Schumann or Brahms. Just as in his operas he is more melancholy-lyrical than truly dramatic, but within this mood-area he has created a number of songs that are truly satisfying. The bulk of the songs here are from his Op. 60, published in the late 1880s, and among the best are the lively In the shadow outside the window (tr. 6), the beautiful Night (tr. 7) and Simple Words (tr. 9) in ¾ time. But all these songs have something to offer, none more so than the light Amid the din of the ball (tr. 20), which was also one of Nicolai Gedda’s favourites."

"For repertoire alone this disc is a treasure-chest and I am sure many readers previously unfamiliar with the songs will be able to make new musical friends. When it comes to the interpretation – or rather the singing – I am less sure. I make this distinction, since interpretation is the artist’s way of conveying the message, the textual content, through shading, inflexion and enunciation, while singing is a more technical conception: the voice production, which includes beauty of tone, legato, vibrato and other features that a singer learns during basic training."

"As an interpreter Ljuba Kazarnovskaya has a lot to offer. There is no doubt that she has insights in the various sentiments of the songs and she is expressive and phrases sensitively, through variations in tone colour. She is also greatly helped by her excellent accompanist Ljuba Orfenova to carry the message to the listener."

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2007

Tchaikovsky was a prolific song writer whose output stretched right through his career and numbered more than a hundred on his death in 1893. Nowadays few are ever performed in the concert hall, and only a handful are more generally known. It is certainly true that he was not gifted in his choice of texts, many having a sentimental quality with love that is in some way unrequited as the recurring subject. The fourth disc in this cycle of the complete songs does also touch on humour, and there are dramatic moments.There will be some melodies you will recognise, but they come from Tchaikovsky's use elsewhere, and the series of discs will be a welcome addition to your collection. As I have written previously, I find it strange that they are not performed in the groups as published, but have been broken up without explanation being offered. Russian sopranos are always a matter of personal taste, the quantity and width of vibrato that is built into their voices striking Western ears as excessive. The distinguished and highly attractive singer, Ljuba Zazarnovskaya, has appeared in most of the world's major opera houses over the past decade, and has a growing international presence. So we can take these as idiomatic Russian performances, and as such they will be of the timbre the composer would have expected. Ljuba Orfenova is a most responsive accompanist, and your ears soon adjust to the ambience in which the piano is situated relative to the singer.

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