, January 2011
This is an example of a set of performances that one would be pleased to encounter in a recital hall, and which make a pleasant enough recording, but which do not stand up to the recorded competition. They are good enough that should you want precisely this combination of Russian songs, they will satisfy. But serious collectors will find more imaginative and engaging recordings of just about everything here.
Zoryana and Olena Kushpler are twin sisters, and there is no question that they are on the same musical wavelength. When one inflects a phrase in a certain way, the other echoes it precisely. They perform this music with a clear knowledge of the style and feel for the idiom.
One’s reservations center on a few things—most seriously a lack of tonal or coloristic variety in Zoryana’s singing. The actual tonal palette seems quite limited, so no matter what the text or music is conveying, her sound tends to stay the same. If you compare her singing of this material with those singers (male or female) who have truly mastered it, you hear the difference immediately. Joan Rogers, Olga Borodina, Christianne Stotjin, Sergei Leiferkus, and Elisabeth Söderström have all made memorable recordings of this repertoire. There are individual touches—not mannerisms—in each of their recordings that stay long in the memory. There is little of that here.
Additional problems: an echoey, unfocused recording that adds to the monochromatic effect of the singing, and a lack of texts and translations. The notes are quite good, though awkwardly translated. Again, it is important to note that this is not a bad recording, and anyone who encounters it is likely to enjoy it (though the lack of texts really is a problem for full appreciation). Seeking out the singers mentioned above will pay greater dividends to many listeners, but one must also note that reaction to singers is a highly personal matter, and some may well find greater pleasure here than I did.