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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, June 2008

The disc is…valuable…I enjoyed the whole programme enormously.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2008

So we come to the final installment of Tchaikovsky’s prolific song output that occupied him for much of his career. Seldom performed nowadays in the concert hall, they have been more fortunate on disc, though this may well be the first time they have been recorded in their entirety by one artist. The composer was not gifted in his choice of texts, but he garnished them with music of real quality, the present disc including one of his most effective cycles, the Six French Songs, and three songs from Hamlet. I do find it strange that the remainder are not performed in the published groups, but have been broken up over the five discs. Maybe they wanted to keep some of the finest for each disc, such as the dramatic, Oh, if you could and the more extensive Love of a dead man. In the main they talk of love and death, the two emotions that dominated the composer’s thoughts, though strangely he added little in the piano part that is not stated in the vocal line. They have been performed throughout by the highly regarded Russian operatic soprano, Ljuba Kazarnovskaya, her typical Slav voice with its quick vibrato making the most of the meaning behind the words. Most of the songs sit very happily in the middle of her range, and she nicely captures the humour of My mischeif, as the lover longs for her kisses. And it is with that song in particular that we come to the problem with this recorded cycle, in that a male voice should also have been involved throughout to share out the songs expressed by both male and female. Ljuba Orfenova. is the highly attentive pianist, the sound being much improved on earlier volumes.

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