Russian Settings of Robert Burns
Click on cover for high-resolution image
£8.50 to Discovery Club members
(member discounts on MP3s also)

Price includes postage and packing

Comment on this album

Russian Settings of Robert Burns

Catalogue Number: TOCC0039
EAN: 5060113440396
Release Date: 12 January 2009
Duration: 59:56

Sviridov: Songs to Verses by Robert Burns
Denisov: Two Songs to Verses by Robert Burns
Shostakovich: Six Romances for Bass Nos. 2-4
Levitin: Song-Cycle to Verses by Robert Burns
Khrennikov: From Five Songs to Verses by Robert Burns

Vassily Savenko, bass-baritone
Alexander Blok, piano

Robert Burns enjoyed a particular following in both Imperial and Soviet Russia as an idealised ‘people’s poet’. In the mid-twentieth century Samuel Marshak’s best-selling translations of Burns came to rival Pushkin in popularity and provided a fresh stimulus to Soviet composers – some of whom may have seen Burns’ radical views as a useful cloak for their own non-conformist views.

Booklet texts   (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
1-9 Songs to Verses by Robert Burns (1955)

Gyorgy Sviridov, composer
Vassily Savenko, bass-baritone
Alexander Blok, piano
1 No. 1: ‘Davno li tsvel zeleniy dol’ (‘The burgeoning dale was lately green’: ‘The Winter of Life’) 5:19 play
2 No. 2: ‘Vozvrashcheniye soldata’ (‘The Return of the Soldier’: ‘The Sodger’s Return’) 3:12 play
3 No. 3: ‘John Anderson’ (‘John Anderson, my Jo’) 4:19 play
4 No. 4: ‘Robin’ (‘Rantin’, Rovin’ Robin’) 1:42 play
5 No. 5: ‘Gorsky paren’ (‘Highland Laddie’) 2:38 play
6 No. 6: ‘Findlay’ (‘Wha Is That At My Bower-Door?’) 3:21 play
7 No. 7: ‘Vsiu zemliu tmoy zavoloklo’ (‘There Is Darkness Over All the Land’: ‘Guidwife, Count the Lawin’) 3:51 play
8 No. 8: ‘Proshchay’ (‘Farewell’: ‘A Red, Red Rose’) 3:46 play
9 No. 9: ‘Chestnaya bednost’ (‘Honest Poverty’: ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That’) 3:51 play
10-11 Two Songs to Verses by Robert Burns (1951)

Edison Denisov, composer
Vassily Savenko, bass-baritone
Alexander Blok, piano

(first recording)
10 No. 1: Malen’kaya ballada (‘A Little Ballad’: ‘There Was a Bonnie Lass’) 2:03 play
11 No. 2: ‘Jenny’ (‘Comin thro’ the Rye’) 1:20 play
12-14 Three Songs from Six Romances for Bass, Op. 62 (1942)

Dmitry Shostakovich, composer
Vassily Savenko, bass-baritone
Alexander Blok, piano
12 No. 2: ‘V polyakh, pod snegom i dozhdyom’ (‘In Snow-girt Fields’: ‘O, Wert Thou In The Cauld Blast’) 3:13 play
13 No. 3: ‘McPherson pered kazn’yu’ (‘McPherson before his Execution’: ‘McPherson’s Farewell’) 2:05 play
14 No. 4: ‘Jenny’ (‘Comin thro’ the Rye’) 1:44 play
15-19 Song-Cycle to Verses by Robert Burns, Op. 51 (1956)

Yuri Levitin, composer
Vassily Savenko, bass-baritone
Alexander Blok, piano

(first recording)
15 No. 1: ‘Lyubov’ (‘Love’: ‘A Red, Red Rose’) 2:00 play
16 No. 2: ‘John Anderson’ (‘John Anderson, my Jo’) 2:02 play
17 No. 3: ‘Shelagh O’Neil’ 1:53 play
18 No. 4: ‘Gde-to v peshchere’ (‘Somewhere in a cave’: ‘Had I a Cave’) 3:17 play
19 No. 5: ‘Iz vsekh vetrov’ (‘Of all winds’: ‘Of A’ the Airts’) 1:43 play
20-22 Three Songs from Five Songs to Verses by Robert Burns (1944)

Tikhon Khrennikov, composer
Vassily Savenko, bass-baritone
Alexander Blok, piano

(first recording)
20 No. 1: ‘Zastol’naya’ (‘A Toast’: ‘Auld Lang Syne’) 2:45 play
21 No. 2: ‘Luchshy paren’ (‘The Bonniest Lad’: ‘Highland Laddie’) 1:58 play
22 No. 5: ‘V polyakh, pod snegom i dozhdyom’ (‘In Snow-girt Fields’: ‘O, Wert Thou In The Cauld Blast’) 1:54 play


Edison Denisov

Edison Denisov, composer

Tikhon Khrennikov

Tikhon Khrennikov, composer

Yuri Levitin

Yuri Levitin, composer

Dmitry Shostakovich

Dmitry Shostakovich, composer

Gyorgy Sviridov

Gyorgy Sviridov, composer

Vassily Savenko

Vassily Savenko, bass-baritone

Alexander Blok

Alexander Blok, piano


All credit to Martin Anderson’s Toccata Classics for originality in spinning together this varied and tonally lyrical Soviet song anthology. Varied it may be but it has a golden thread in the form of Robert Burns and his poetry.

With his Russian translations the Voronezh-born writer Samuil Yakovlevich Marshak (1887-1964) helped make Burns' poetry accessible in Soviet Russia; not that he did not have predecessors. His translations received wide currency and Burns' people's poet sentiments and free-thinking reputation tapped into the Soviet philosophy. Marshak also translated Shakespeare (sonnets) and William Blake's poetry as well as tales by Rudyard Kipling – the latter famously set by Lokshin in his magnificent Third Symphony.

Sviridov’s fine nine-song sequence is from 1955 and is the single largest items here. It recalls a sort of intermittent trade-off between Shostakovich and Finzi in ghoulish, swinging or reflective mood and lugubrious and sinister Mussorgsky in Songs and Dances of Death. Starlight glimmers in Findlay but Sviridov time after time produces clever and indelibly memorable effects such as the peg-leg jerk in Gorsky paren. Denisov’s two songs are short. They are in an idiom similar to that of Sviridov but somehow less adventurous though still deeply pleasing. Further back in time we go to Shostakovich and his three songs from op. 62. These are not as angular or as cordite-fragrant as we might have expected. The first is melancholy, the second charnel-jolly and the last a charmer with a wicked seductive wink. The five by Yuri Levitin are surprisingly troubadour style – ringingly confident and for the most part cheerful with the occasional grin from the skull beneath or a moment for desperate lovelorn sadness as in Had I a Cave. Here Levitin imbues the song with a musical treatment that suggests a deeper worldly sorrow. Khrennikov’s three songs date from two years after those of Shostakovich. They are again in a mildly sentimental troubadour style – engaging yet with a darker under-belly.

Savenko is an oaken-sturdy coal-toned intelligent singer with a bit of vibrato but just the right side of objection. He is truly magnificent in a lustily resounding high note in the last Khrennikov song. Blok throughout matches Savenko in sympathy, skill and insight. Each artist is captured in natural and pleasing sound.

The poems are given in the booklet in their sung language. The Russian words are printed in Cyrillic rather than transliteration. Translations into English are given side by side with the original text. In addition there are two sturdily rewarding and extensive articles which are smack-bang on target.

Is there really a dissenting subtext in these songs? I doubt it and wonder whether such exegesis is rooted anywhere. It hardly matters. These are fine or at the very least fascinating songs. Anyone interested in the art-song in the last century needs to hear them. I hope there will be more from the Soviet era. If you enjoy songs by Britten, Poulenc or Finzi you will find reward in these.

Rob Barnett MusicWeb International January 2009


0 comments – add a comment