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Recently in Recordings

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Recordings

Decca 478 8305 [CD]
24 Nov 2017

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Aida Garifullina, soprano. ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, conducted by Cornelius Meister.

Decca 478 8305 [CD]

$10.69  Click to buy

She was clearly well trained in her native Tatarstan and then in Nuremberg and Vienna. She won first prize in the Operalia competition (2013), and has already sung at major European opera houses in Russian roles. She is scheduled to make her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2019.

The repertoire she has chosen here displays her strengths. She sings Russian arias and songs by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninov, the Russian popular song known in English as “Midnight in Moscow,” and two folk songs: a Cossack lullaby and (in her native Tatar) “Allüki.”

She starts the CD off with two French arias: “Juliette’s Waltz Song” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and the “Bell Song” from Delibes’s Lakmé. She transposes the latter down a bit to suit her voice, which is not the stratospheric type of soprano that has often been associated with the role, though she can certainly sing normal high notes with ease. Her French pronunciation is approximate: the mute e is too open, and I did not notice a single nasal vowel. She also did little in those two arias to color individual words—the focus is far more on producing a beautifully even string of pearl-like notes.

Garifullina says in the booklet that she took the recordings of Anna Moffo as one of her main models, and she has chosen well. I hope she continues to grow as a singer, mastering the art of performing in other languages and responding more to the meanings of individual words and phrases—but without losing the astounding perfection of vocal production that is on display here.

The orchestra is sometimes a bit in the background. Various orchestrators are credited for the songs she chose to sing (e.g., Rachmaninov’s “Lilacs”), and their work is mostly capable and inoffensive. But I disliked Paul Bateman’s reorchestration of the “Song of India” (from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko): why not just let us hear what Rimsky-Korsakov wrote, since this is already an opera aria, not a song with piano? Bateman had the not-brilliant idea of making the orchestration more elaborate in the second strophe. It’s somewhat distracting and unnecessary.

Far more distracting, I find, is Paul Campbell’s lush arrangement of the Tatar folk song. Campbell seems to have taken as a model what Joseph Canteloube did with the famous Chants d’Auvergne: a cushion of string sound, swooshing harps, soft arpeggios in the woodwinds, and so on. If you like the Canteloube songs (I have never had the patience for them), then here’s a Tatar equivalent.

Complete texts in the original languages, plus good translations into French, German, and English. The CD’s table of contents is a little confusing: the layout could give the inadvertent impression that Rachmaninov wrote the Tatar song and the Cossack lullaby.

You can sample all the tracks at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tMPAqWICoE. YouTube also has a video version of Garifullina doing the Gounod (with fake applause at the end). One way or the other, I suggest that you listen to her: she offers some of the most beautiful singing I have heard in years.

Ralph P. Locke

The above review is a lightly revised version of one that first appeared in American Record Guide and appears here by kind permission.

Ralph P. Locke is emeritus professor of musicology at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. Six of his articles have won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music. His most recent two books are Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections and Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart (both Cambridge University Press). The first is now available in paperback, and the second soon will be (and is also available as an e-book).

      

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