The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Dmitry Ferschtman (cello), Mila Baslawskaja (piano)
Composer: Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff

It’s not often that a CD booklet is as lavishly presented as this one, featuring colour reproductions of landscapes and portraits by Levitan, Zhukovsky and Repin in the booklet alongside the poetry of Tolstoy, Pushkin and Apukhtin. Yet by including all the texts of the relevant songs, these artists obviate the criticism that one loses the sense of the words in purely instrumental transcriptions, while the visual images help in generating a real Zeitgeist of the era. The autumnally rich and golden sounds of Dmitry Ferschtman’s cello eloquently intones the composers’ melodic invention, beautifully captured in this excellent recording, and Mila Baslawskaja is particularly outstanding in Rachmaninoff’s formidably challenging piano parts.

Glinka’s work yields an interesting fusion of folk elements with more Italianate melodies of which the song ‘Doubt’ is particularly striking. But it’s Tchaikovsky’s sophisticated and gloriously melodious romances that steal the show, impressive in their variety of feeling from the melancholic ‘In the Ballroom’ to the more optimistic ‘Serenade’. Ferschtman and Baslawskaja are swift to generate the mood – expressive though never mannered. To savour the bitter-sweet despair of Rachmaninoff’s art look no further than ‘Do not sing my beauty to me’, while the dark harmonies of his ‘To my sorrow have I grown to love’ come across with great intensity and passion in this sumptuously delivered performance.

Joanne Talbot