C1361. ALEXANDER GAUK Cond. USSR State Symphony Orchestra & Republican Russian Choir; Alexander Pirogov, Maria Maksakova & Fedor Fedotov: LEGEND OF THE BATTLE FOR THE RUSSIAN LAND (Oratorio for soloists, chorus and orchestra [the first version], op.17) (Yuri Shaporin). (Russia) Aquarius AQVR 393, recorded 1944. - 4607123631607
“...pride of place [belongs to] the high mezzo of Maria Maksakova who, in steady tones, successfully conveys the forlornness of the women. In contrast comes the rousing 'Song of the Red Army' in which the dark bass of Alexander Pirogov blazes through the chorus in his role as the Warrior....the typically Russian tenorial timbre if Fedor Fedotov [copes] well with the somewhat high tessitura...."
- JTH, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2016
“Alexander Gauk….a revered teacher whose pupils included Mravinsky, Melik-Pashaev and Svetlanov, is a warmly sensitive accompanist, seeming to make his orchestra breathe with the singers who never need to force their tone to get the text across.”
- Christopher Webber, OPERA, May, 2012
“Yuri Shaporin writes within a realm whose harmonic and melodic boundaries were long ago set by Borodin and Tchaikovsky with the lightest harmonic spicing from Prokofiev. Interesting to note that in his photograph portraits of both Borodin and Prokofiev decorate Shaporin’s study wall.
Shaporin was born in the small town of Glukhov near Chernigov in the Ukraine. His parents were cultured: father a painter; mother a pianist. St Petersburg was the scene of his secondary and university education. He was a law graduate but in 1913 entered the St Petersburg Conservatoire emerging as composer and conductor in 1918. His teachers were Nikolai Sokolov, Maximilian Steinberg and Nikolai Tcherepnin. He established himself quickly as a dependable, original-thinking and resourceful writer of music for the stage…and Leningrad was rich in theatre life and new productions. This latter stood him in good stead for his many film scores - some eighty in total. With Maxim Gorky and Alexander Blok (poets much associated with the Revolution) he established the Great Dramatic Theatre of Leningrad. Between 1926 and 1932 he was at work on a four movement Symphony - his only Symphony.”
- Rob Barnett, MuicWebInternational
“In the four decades after the departure of Feodor Chaliapin in 1919, two Russian basses dominated the stage at Moscow's mighty Bolshoi: Mark Reizen, tall and elegant, whose magnificent instrument had a Slavic edge somewhat softer than most, had but one rival. Alexander Pirogov, commanding and powerful, owned a voice blacker in timbre, less smooth, but arresting in its impact and guided by theatrical instincts of overwhelming authority. Although stories abound of their dislike for each other, their presence assured the theater's primacy in having bass singers perfectly suited to the many great bass roles that give Russian opera its special tang.
Pirogov…was engaged by the Zimin Free Opera in Moscow where, in two years time (1922 - 1924), he learned his craft and gained familiarity with several leading roles. In 1924, Pirogov was invited to join the Bolshoi. Soon he was heard as Gremin, Ivan Susanin, the Old Miller, Russlan, and Ivan the Terrible from the Russian repertory, in addition to such leading characters in Western opera as Don Basilio and Méphistophélès. The last named he reportedly learned in just two weeks. In 1929, Pirogov was honored by being assigned the title role in BORIS GODUNOV; thereafter he was known as an unsurpassed interpreter of this mightiest of all Russian protagonists.
Establishing a reputation for hard work and meticulous attention to detail, Pirogov continued to sharpen and refine his interpretations. He arrived at the theater early, applying his makeup and stepping into costume long before he was summoned to the stage. Although many stories suggest an imperious presence in his personal affairs, others paint another portrait, revealing a friendly and outgoing approach toward his colleagues. Although he retired from the Bolshoi in 1954, Pirogov was the choice for Boris when the opera was filmed in 1955. He had already been awarded the Stalin Prize for his performance of the role and accompanied the film to Venice for the international film festival held there. Although the film was not a prizewinner, the Italian film academy struck a special medal to honor the singer.
After 1954, Pirogov spent most of his time in his native city, traveling to Moscow only for occasional appearances on-stage and in concert. When the Bolshoi was invited to La Scala in 1964, Pirogov was selected to sing Boris. However, after fishing in his beloved Oka River on a particularly hot day in late June, he returned home and retired for a nap. Awakening with chest pains in the middle of the night, he sent his son for a doctor, but by the time the physician arrived, the bass was already dead. Thus, Pirogov was denied the possibility of one final triumph.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“In 1919 Maksakova made her début as Olga in EVGENY ONÉGIN. In the autumn the baritone Max Maksakov arrived at the theater as a new director (and soloist) and gave her several new roles. Much admiring her gift, the maestro was still critical of her technique, so she went to Petrograd for further studying. There she met Glazunov who recognized a lyric soprano in her and opted for a return, to ask Maksakov for private lessons. The two became close, he proposed, and in 1920 they married, forming a sparkling duet on stage. In 1923 Maria Maksakova came to Moscow, débuted (as Amneris) substituting Obukhova, who fell ill, and was instantly invited to join the ensemble.
In 1925 Maksakova moved to Leningrad's Mariinsky Theatre. In 1927 she returned to Bolshoi, where she continued to work as a leading soloist until her retirement 1953. In those years she sang virtually all the leading female roles in the Mariinsky's classic repertoire. Maksakova was one of the first Soviet artists who were allowed in the mid-1930s to perform abroad, giving successful concerts in Turkey and Poland, later Sweden and (after the war) East Germany.
In 1944 Maksakova won the 1st Prize at the Russian Folk song competition held by the Arts Committee of the USSR. In 1946 she was awarded her first Stalin Prize ‘for outstanding achievents in opera and the performing arts’. Two more were to come, in 1949 and 1951.
In 1953 Maksakova retired or, rather, was informed of her retirement which came as an unpleasant surprise for a singer who had kept herself in superb shape, both physically and artistically. Rumours had it that some people at the Bolshoi found it safe to settle old scores now that Stalin, her much-feared patron, was now dead; specifically, the name of Vera Davydova, another famous Soviet soprano, has been mentioned. ‘Our relations were pure and friendly, each respected and valued what the other was doing on stage’, Davydova maintained."