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Soprano Arias
Serge RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Francesca da Rimini (1906) - O weep not, my Paolo (Francesca’s Aria) [2’47].
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Eugene Onegin (1879) - Tatiana’s Letter Scene [10’56].
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Don Carlo (1867) - Tu che la vanità [10’20]. Luisa Miller (1849) – Tu puniscimi, O Signore [3’05]. Simon Boccanegra (1857) – Come in quest’ora bruna [3’48]. Ernani (1833/4) – Surta è la notte … Ernani, involami [6’45].
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

Norma (1831) - Casta diva [10’03].
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

Maria Stuarda (1835) - O nube! Che lieve per l’aria t’aggiri [5’48].
Gaspare SPONTINI (1774-1851)

La Vestale (1807) - O nume tutelar [2’46].
Marina Mescheriakova (soprano); aSlovak Philharmonic Chorus
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Halász.
Rec. Concert Hall of the Slovak Radio, Bratislava, from September 9th-14th, 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557109 [56’16]


Mescheriakova is already something special, and appears to be on the way to great things. If this disc is anything to go by, that is. She has a wonderful way of ‘floating’ her voice; occasionally, though, this is just slightly misjudged and the moment of magic fudged. On disc, my only experience of her has been as Hélène in the Philips set of Verdi’s Jérusalem, the 1847 French adaptation of I lombardi (462 613-2). She has also taken the part of the Countess in Mozart’s Figaro, recently reviewed on this site .

This is a well-programmed disc with the twin (and usually linked) concepts of unrequited love and death cropping up regularly. The inclusion of arias by Rachmaninov and Spontini certainly adds interest, as does some early-ish Verdi that concludes the set (Ernani, especially interesting in the light of the ENO production very recently .

Mescheriakova seems to have no problems with long, legato lines that encompass a wide range within a short space of time (in fact it is surely no accident there are several examples here). Her lower range is strong and timbrally vibrant, her upper register strong and gleaming, yet there is plenty of flexibility and a large expressive vocabulary there, too. In fact, she seems to be the epitome of what she is, a true lirico-spinto.

The Rachmaninov (from Francesca da Rimini) is very brief (less than three minutes), yet it makes its point well. In this context that point is Mescheriakova’s enviable awareness of the long line and her sense of being at home in the lyric outpouring. On the other side of the coin, when she tries to float a line here she is markedly less successful that later on in the disc. The excerpt rather peters out. From its ashes, Tatiana’s Letter Scene emerges, an account that is dramatically alive to the music’s flow (the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra seems to outdo itself here, in the presence of a major artist, marred only by the occasional workaday woodwind comment). Further, Mescheriakova’s diction is exemplary (her sense of being at home with the Russian language may, of course, be taken as read).

I have long considered Don Carlos to be one of Verdi’s greatest operas. The omnipresent problem, of course, is which version to use - four acts or five?; French or Italian?, and so on. Here Mescheriakova takes on ‘Tu che la vanitá’, Elisabeth de Valois’s crypt plea for sympathy to the tomb of Charles V. A complete, and live, Don Carlos came my way on Naxos not too long ago, featuring Hillevi Martinpelto as Elisabeth (Naxos 8.660096-98: please link to my review). Mescheriakova is superb, outclassing Martinpelto, her distressed pleading almost tangible, It takes a great artists to take the listener straight into the heart of a drama when only one excerpt is on display, but it is precisely this that Mescheriakova manages.

One can immediately hear that the next Verdi excerpt (from Luisa Miller) comes from an earlier stage in the composer’s career (nearly twenty years earlier, and this is emphatically not a criticism of the composer or his music, as anyone who has followed my unswerving devotion to early/early-mid Verdi will attest!). ‘Tu puniscimi, O Signore’ (another entreaty to a deity) opens with those characteristic rum-ti-tum accompaniments in the strings (from 0’14), over which the singer pours out her heart. The Boccanegra ‘Come in quest’ora bruna’ shows Mescheriakova’s marvellous long line again - a shame the orchestra’s magical accompaniment is here so terribly literal (no reflection of the text’s ‘shimmering light’ here), so the singer has to work against her accompanists rather than with them.

‘Casta diva’ finds Mescheriakova on hallowed (read Callas) ground. But Mescheriakova makes it all her own. Here is the perfect vehicle for the spun long line, and how liquid is her legato (over workaday strings). Mescheriakova’s status has been apparent throughout the recital, but here she comprehensively outclasses her surroundings. The chorus (Slovak Philharmonic) is acceptable, no more. The climactic high note is thrilling.

Maria Stuarda (Donizetti) is a magnificent work, one that Dame Janet Baker memorably recorded, in English, for Chandos (CHAN3017, taken ‘live’ from the London Coliseum in 1982). Again, Mescheriakova loses nothing in comparison in her ‘O nube! Che lieve per l’aria t’aggiri’.

The name of Spontini is a welcome sight, but at only 2’46 duration one wishes for more. The excerpt (from Act 2 of La Vestale) is very subdued, and Mescheriakova holds the atmosphere excellently. The ending just hangs in the air, out of which emerges .... the final Verdi excerpt, ‘Surta è la notte .. Ernani, involami’, Elvira’s plea for rescue from Silva. The recent (and continuing at the time of writing) run of this opera at ENO serves as a timely reminder of the stature of this work (review ). Good though Cara O’Sullivan was, she is no match for Mescheriakova, hypnotic in those long lines (again). This is a fitting end to a memorable recital.

Delights galore.

For those interested in finding out more about Mescheriakova, an interview is available on the web.

Colin Clarke


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