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Subject: Re: Vishnevskaya (was Re: Heather Harper)
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 9 Jul 2018 06:34:11 +0300
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The 1963 recording of Mussorgsky’s “Songs and Dances of Death” Vishnevskaya made for Philips, with Rostropovich at the piano, remains, for me, the greatest recording of that cycle.

I really liked the RCA LP of songs she made with Dedyukhin and for a long time couldn’t find it on CD. It’s in a large “RCA Living Stereo” box set (along with RCA recital discs by Milanov, Nilsson, Peters, Valletti and Forrester) but also available as a high res download from prestoclassics.uk.

That LP opened with a Tchaikovsky song that she used to frequently use as a first number in her recitals that I always found to be a powerful scena. It’s translated as “Was I not like a blade of grass?”

The only time I saw her in opera, she was unfortunately in poor form. This was a 1976 San Francisco “Pique Dame” and apparently she was ill. After one performance, Rostropovich told some of the orchestra backstage “Tonight Vishnevskaya was the pits!” Her studio recording is better.

I found her a riveting interpreter, musically and dramatically. Her voice wasn’t always beautiful but she used it as an effective expressive vehicle.

Max Paley

Sent from my iPad

> On Jul 9, 2018, at 2:49 AM, G. Paul Padillo <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> I'm once again switching the subject title (I don't CARE if anyone minds) because these 
> threads, as they morph are no longer about the original topic, and for anyone who accesses 
> Opera-L through the Archives (I can't imagine anyone wanting to get all these messages in 
> email) and those of us who make use of the Archives to fact check, or just stroll down 
> Memory Lane, it makes things far easier.  I can't count the number of searches I've done 
> where I've typed in a singer/composer/opera and had to wade through dozens of posts that 
> had NOTHING to do with the Subject line.  Now, that THAT's off my chest . . . 
> 
> I've been glad reading posts again on this great Russian lady and that others (thank you 
> Vesna, and Donald) who find "Galina . . . " to be among the finest autobios from any 
> musician.
> 
> I recall a debate from a year or so ago when someone declared Netrebko "the most 
> important soprano since Callas or Sutherland."  I countered by stating Netrebko wasn't even 
> the most important Russian soprano since Callas or Sutherland, citing Vishnevskaya as 
> having covered a wider repertoire and with more vastly different styles, and had done so 
> even by the time she was Anna's present age.  
> 
> I still return to many of Vishnevskaya's recordings and I don't think I've ever read ANY book 
> as many times as I've read hers.  Her two films - the legendary "Katerina Ismailova" and 
> the profoundly moving (non-operatic) "Alexandra" by Alexander Sokurov (one of my 
> favorite Russian filmmakers of any era). are great cinema by any standard. 
> 
> I recall a while back finally getting my hands on a copy of the 1961 Verdi Requiem with 
> Markevitch leading the Russian State Academy Choir and the Moscow State Philharmonic 
> Academy Orchestra and telling anyone within ear shot it was most hair raising performance 
> I’ve ever encountered of the Verdi.   
> 
> Markevitch unleashed the Soviet forces in a performance that is staggering in its dynamics 
> being pushed to the extremes in both directions:  pianissimi are more hushed (and 
> reverent) then one is often used to hearing and the moments of fiery fury are as wildly 
> dramatic as one is likely to encounter.  The brass and string playing are immaculate to the 
> point of my wondering how such sonic violence was achieved without ever losing 
> musicianship . . . or control!  There are too many genuine stand out moments, to count 
> here, but a few, such as the threatening sound of the swirling strings and winds in the 
> "Liber Scriptus" – the text ("all that is hidden will be revealed … nothing will be left 
> unpunished") turned out in almost horror movie fashion.
> 
> The "Dies Irae" is ripped through as if one had been given a one way ticket on the express 
> train to hell.   It is absolutely hair raising.  The soloists, Nina Isakova, Vladimir Ivanovsky 
> and Ivan Petrov all do fine work – even if the Latin diction has that tell-tale Slavic-edge to 
> it.  But . . . but Vishnevskaya offers one of the most uniquely dramatic "Libera me’s" one is 
> likely to experience and at moments ("tremens factos sum ergo") she can be terrifying – 
> then switch to truly exquisite piano singing . . . music simply floated out in a way that is 
> achingly lovely.   
> 
> I concluded my review of that recording writing:  
> 
> ". . . Vishnevskaya may surprise with her ability to sweeten the sound in those moments it 
> is ever filled with emotion and unexpected grace.  Then, of course, there are the dramatic 
> moments where, predictably, she leaves blood all over the place.  Her final "libera me 
> Domine de morte . . . " is as though a final gasp from one already dead; hers is the sound 
> of the soul making its final, heart-rending supplication for mercy . . . before the final shovel 
> of dirt is thrown onto it."
> 
> My opinion has not changed.  
> 
> p.
> 
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