B0733. (TCHAIKOWSKY) Richard D. Sylvester. Tchaikovsky’s Complete Songs . Indiana University Press, 2002. 349pp. Indices; Bibliography; Singers and recordings; Photo; DJ. Title-page inscribed & autographed by the author. - 9780253340412
“Includes 73-minute CD featuring performances of 22 songs. It’s not often that a book really does 'fill a long-felt want', but here is an example, and an outstanding one. Richard Sylvester has produced a critical catalogue of all Tchaikovsky's 103 songs (plus six duets), with introductions, then the Russian texts with transliteration and translation, details of publication, poetic structure and vocal range. But the core of the book is the discussions of each poem, its author and its significance to Tchaikovsky. These come from a deep knowledge of Russian poetry and ideas; they are in themselves absorbing, but they are also vital to an understanding of the literary traditions from which Russian song came and of what inspired its greatest master.
The three-page introduction to Tchaikovsky's finest set, the Op 73 group, for instance, is ideal preparation for enjoyment of these amazing songs.
Sylvester also lists all the artists who have so far recorded each song (no fewer than 60 for 'None but the lonely heart', if we include Piatigorsky's own cello transcription). Each of these singers is Oven a brief evaluation, often briskly to the point: Frank Sinatra gets a pat on the back for idiomatic Russian singing in the last of his four recordings of 'None but the lonely heart', Fischer-Dieskau a rap on the knuckles for sloppy pronunciation. And as a rich bonus, the book includes a CD of 22 songs by almost as many Russian singers; Yelena Obraztsova's 'Song of the gypsy girl' the most recent (1979), Leonid Sobinov's beautiful 'Amid the din of the ball' (1911: Sobinov made 66 recordings in the first decade of the century) and 'To forget so soon' by the captivating Antonina Nezhdanova (1910), the earliest. There is, alas, neither of the two recordings made in 1901 and 1910 by Tchaikovsky's friend and much-admired tenor, Nikolay Figner, despite the well-known photograph on the dust jacket of him and his wife Medea Mei sitting on steps with the composer leaning forward between them. But we have a marvellous 'I bless you forests' by the great Mark Reizen, 'Not a word, my friend' and 'Reconciliation' by the no less great Nadezhda Obukhova, one of the only two Tchaikovsky song recordings by Antonina Nezdhanova, and much more that will include discoveries to all but the most assiduous admirer ofTchaikovsky's songs. Here is a book to enlarge that circle of admirers and to reward them deeply.”
- John Warrack, GRAMOPHONE, Sept., 2002
“Besides his symphonies and concertos, operas and ballets, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote 103 ‘romances’, or songs, which are among his most popular works in Russia. The lyrics to these songs, by poets famous and obscure, have never before been studied. Richard D. Sylvester collects here all 103 song texts, reproducing them in Russian, with transliterations and translations. The texts are illuminated by commentaries on the songs' historical context and performance histories, an extensive discography of singers and recordings, and a 73-minute CD that includes performances by noted artists of 22 songs. For Tchaikovsky specialists, TCHAIKOVSKY'S COMPLETE SONGS provides significant new information. For vocalists and students of music, for the general audience interested in art songs and recordings of great singers, as well as for students of Russian language and literature, this book offers a unique window into Russian musical culture.”