OP1424. SNEGOROCHKA (Rimsky-Korsakov), recorded 1946, w.Kondrashin Cond. Bolshoi Opera Ensemble; Sergei Lemeshev, Sergei Krassowski, Nedezhda Obukhova, Maxim Mikhailov, Irina Maslennikova, Maria Maksakova, etc. (Russia) 3-Aquarius AQVR 268, Slipcase Edition. Specially priced. - 4607123630495
“Snegurochka, also known as the Snow Maiden or Snowy, is a unique character of Russian folklore and an essential part of Russian New Year’s celebrations. The origins of Snegurochka are contradictory. The roots of this feminine character can be found in Slavic pagan beliefs. According to legend, she is the daughter of Father Frost and the Snow Queen. Another Russian fairy-tale, however, tells a story of an old man and woman who had always regretted that they did not have any children. In winter they made a girl out of snow. The snow maiden came alive and became the daughter they never had. They called her ‘Snegurochka’. But when the summer sun began to warm the land, the girl became very sad. One day she went into the woods with a group of village girls to pick flowers. It began to get dark and the girls made a fire and began playfully jumping over the flames. Snegurochka also jumped, but suddenly she melted and turned into a white cloud.
In some parts of Russia people still follow the ancient tradition of drowning a straw figure in the river or burning it on the bonfire to dispel the winter. This custom symbolizes the transition from winter to spring.”
“Nadezhda Obukhova was one of Russia’s most beloved artists during the post-war years. Already aged 28 at the outbrake of Worldwar I, she could well be expected to have recorded during the pre-electric period. Why she was not given the opportunity to do so, will probably never be known. Listening to her records of 1937 onwards you can hardly believe that this is the voice of a 51 years old singer! Hers was a light, lyrical and colorful mezzo-soprano, easily reaching into the low register but with a curiously light, almost soprano timbre in the middle register. She was one of the singers who always sang within their means. You will never hear her darkening the voice or making it heavier for effect which is certainly one of the reasons for her longevity. If you compare her earlier recordings of 1937 with her final recording of 1960 (which was the song ‘Kalinushka Malinushka’), breath and legato are not only intact but better than most singers half her age!”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“In 1946 Maria Maksakova 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 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.
After retirement from the Bolshoi, Maksakova joined Nikolay Osipov's Russian Folk orchestra as a soloist. With and without it, she continued performing and touring. In 1956 the Bolshoi invited Maksakova back, but her return was a one-off: she peformed as Carmen only, just to say farewell to her fans. Later Maksakova taught vocals at the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts, was the head of the Folk vocal school in Moscow, published articles and essays. She was the driving force behind the opening of the Conservatory in her native Astrakhan. Among her proteges was Tamara Milashkina, later an acclaimed singer on her own right. Only in 1971 she was given the title as ‘the People's Artist of the USSR’.”
“In Russia, Sergei Yakovlevich Lemeshev (1902-1977) is — along with Feodor Chaliapin — perhaps the most beloved opera singer in recent history. He was born into a very poor peasant family, in a small village, during the years of the Bolshevik revolution and the Civil war, and Lemeshev was required to become a cadet in the Red Army Cavalry School. It was, however, actually the Revolution that helped him make his dream of an operatic career come true, since the Bolsheviks gave the poorest peasants and proletarians a preferential right to free education. Sergei was assigned to study at the Moscow Conservatory where, after surviving a rigorous competition, he was accepted. (This determined his political views, for as he said many times, ‘the Soviets gave me everything’.) In 1931, he became a leading tenor of the Bolshoi, where he sang for the next 34 years, winning great acclaim. His audience grew, along with his fame, and he soon gained a veritable army of fans, called ‘lemeshevists’. His vocal and artistic qualities, evident to every listener, are beauty of timbre, musicality, effortlessness of vocal production, expressiveness, and very clear diction - qualities perhaps most commonly found in bel canto singers. An interesting comment on Lemeshev’s singing was made by the Bolshoi tenor Anatoly Orfenov: ‘He developed a mixed voice of incomparable beauty, which made it possible for him to take the highest notes with such beautiful richness that even specialists could not explain how it was done technically….His high C’s … sounded virile and full…His manner of lowering his larynx a bit on high notes allowed him to perform the parts which we ordinary lyric tenors did not sing’.”
- Natalie, "younglemeshevist"
“Everything about [Sergei Lemeshev] was artistic....On the stage, until the end of his career, he was a youth, beloved and vulnerable. Even at seventy he still drove his admirers into ecstasies every time he sang Lensky at the Bolshoi.”
- Galina Vishnevskaya, GALINA, p.324