thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded
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Yuri Mazurok (baritone)- Arias and Scenes from
Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra/Mark Ermler
rec. 1966-80. ADD.
Notes but no libretto MELODIYA MELCD1002393 [59:34]
Yuri Mazurok enjoyed a long career of nearly forty years, a feat no doubt enabled by his refusal to push his voice beyond the requirements of maintaining a bel canto approach to singing. He is never overtly histrionic, and apparently his acting style was similarly subtle, but his attention to dynamics, verbal nuance and inflection more than compensate for his restraint. It also helps that his baritone was intrinsically beautiful; for me, he takes his place alongside Lisitsian at the head of a line of distinguished Soviet-Russians in the same vocal category such as Leiferkus, Chernov and, more recently, Hvorostovsky. The voice is light in timbre yet powerful, penetrating and slightly nasal in the attractive manner of baritones from other traditions such as Manuguerra or Gobbi. It is without the rich, bronzed sound we associate with Ruffo, Stracciari, Milnes or Merrill, yet is nonetheless capable of successfully embracing the echt Italian roles from Verdian and verismo operas, as the last four tracks in this compilation illustrate.
These recordings were made between 1966 and 1980, when he was at his vocal peak and they are all more than capably conducted by Bolshoi veteran Mark Ermler. It is a pity that they do not include “Ya vas lyublyu”, a signature aria from Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame (Queen of Spades) which best shows off his legato and plangent sweetness of tone. You may hear him sing that aria in the complete recording of the opera conducted by Tchakarov in 1988, but that was when he was slightly past his best. A better representation of his supremacy as Prince Yeletsky is to be found in the 1966 studio recording conducted by Boris Khaikin, also re-released on the Melodyia label; unfortunately, that is hard to obtain. We are given here instead another aria from the same opera, Tomsky’s Ballad, a more robust narrative piece rather than the lyric outpouring which best suits Mazurok’s voice.
His forward, slightly hard-edged sound, pellucid diction and total evenness of tonal production throughout his vocal range are all amply demonstrated here in this programme. The bulk of it is from the Russian repertoire which formed the core of his repertoire of forty roles; especially striking is his delivery of the Song of the Venetian Merchant where he steadily sustains the long line then sails easily up to a superb, prolonged top A flat. The Russian arias which contain melismatic, “Eastern” elements of a lamenting quality are meat and drink to such a voice, yet he is also wholly idiomatic in the five Italian roles he essays. There is only one by Mozart, the fleeting aria from Act 1 of Don Giovanni, and it is as elegant as you could wish, with the right combination of sensuality and a lean, virile quality.
Relative weaknesses are few: although the Italian arias are delivered with aplomb, some might prefer a darker sound and otherwise the arias for Iago and Renato are delivered with a black, biting intensity and the Prologue from I pagliacci is highly dramatic and mercurial, with just the right variety of expression, even if the concluding top A flat is decidedly less comfortable than the one in Sadko.
The stereo sound is excellent, clear and without distortion but transferred at a high volume, so be prepared to turn it down to listen comfortably to an hour’s worth of great baritone singing.
Mazeppa’s Arioso, Act 2 [5:17] (Tchaikovsky: Mazeppa)
Tomsky’s Ballad, Act 1 [4:02] (Tchaikovsky: Pique dame)
The Demon’s Romance, Act 2 [4:29] (Rubinstein: The Demon)
Gryaznoy’s Aria, Act 1 [5:26] (Rimsky-Korsakov: The Tsar’s Bride)
Song of the Venetian Merchant, Act 2 [4:53] (Rimsky-Korsakov: Sadko)
Shaklovity’s Aria [5:48] (Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina)
Mizgir’s Arioso [1:26] (Rimsky-Korsakov: The Snow Maiden)
Eugene Onegin’s Aria, Tableau 4 [3:34] (Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin)
Don Giovanni’s Aria, Act 1 [1:36] (Mozart: Don Giovanni)
Iago’s Monologue, Act 2 [4:41] (Verdi: Otello)
Renato’s Aria, Act 3 [5:56] (Verdi: Un ballo in maschera)
The Conte di Luna’s Recitative and Aria, Act 2 [4:48] (Verdi: Il trovatore)
Prologue [7:30] (Leoncavallo: I pagliacci)
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