You could spot the Wigmore Hall regulars, never scruffy, but looking slightly out of place.
Hvorostovsky was singing Rachmaninov songs and Shostakovich Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti, both composers dear to his heart, whom he has often sung in recital. Hvorostovsky’s huge bass baritone voice is capable of immense force, which makes him outstanding in operatic roles where the intensity of his singing releases great depths of colour. Hvorostovsky also has the ability to modulate tenderly, which suits the more personal Rachmaninov songs. His three encores at the end of the recital demonstrated how well he can sing Rachmaninov: a genuinely mysterious In the Silence of the Secret Night, suggesting subtle emotions. During the main programme, however, Hvorostovsky seemed more preoccupied with creating grand gestures like the huge “Da ty” (for you) in Zdes khorosho (How fair this spot, op 21/7 1902), and the flourish “Ya zhdu tebya” (I am waiting for you, op 14/1 1894). Forcefulness and volume appeal to many, but Hvorostovsky is capable of more refinement. The audience was happy, though, applauding every song.
For Shostakovich Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti, (op 145 1974), Hvorostovsky switched into a completely different mode. These songs are best known fully orchestrated, where their brooding majesty can be quite devastating. Hvorostovsky has made a specialty of this cycle in concert, so it was especially interesting to hear him sing it with only piano for support. It says much for him and his pianist Ivari Ilja that you could almost forget the wailing brass, booming percussion and rumbling dark strings in the full orchestral version.
Heartfelt sincerity in Razluka (Separation), where Hvorostovsky breathes feeling into the long lines. In hushed tones, he reveals his true mastery. In this song the poet realizes that death is imminent, hence the timbre evoking solemn prayer. The savagery of Gnev (Anger) which follows is thus even more brutal. “For Rome is a forest full of murderers”. Hvorostovsky and Ilja are so focused that the driving whip-like violence in the orchestrated version comes over even in voice and piano. Shostakovich references Christ’s suffering, so Hvorostovsky’s rock-like dignity is well judged.
The piano prelude to Tvorchestvo (Creativity) can’t quite match the hammer blows in the orchestral version, but Ilja beats rough-hewn staccato out of the Wigmore Hall piano, used to more lyrical things. Then Noch (Night) which connects to Tvorchestvo for Michelangelo was a sculptor, and the serenity he carves into this sleeping marble angel is the work of man as much as of God. Shostakovich wrote this cycle as he approached his own death, possibly anxious that once he was dead, the Soviets might suppress his music. Hence Bessmertiye (Immortality) with its almost jaunty capriciousness. “No ya ne myortv, khot i opushchen v zemlyu” (I am not dead, though I lie in the earth). Hvorostovsky intones with gravitas, but understands that the critical line rises gloriously, agilely upward “I am alive in the hearts of all who love” Ilja delineates the “shining” motif so it sounds like a balalaika, though it’s also suggesting eternal light. Some of the glamour audience left before the Shostakovich songs. It wasn’t that they didn’t like him. On the contrary, maybe they knew how uncompromising they are, and that Hvorostovsky’s interpretation was serious. Hvorostovsky was saving himself for Shostakovich, and it was where his heart lay in this performance.
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image_description=Dmitri Hvorostovsky [Photo courtesy of Askonas Holt]
product_title=Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninov
product_by=Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Ivari Ilya
Wigmore Hall, London. 8th September 2012
product_id=Above: Dmitri Hvorostovsky [Photo courtesy of Askonas Holt]