V2487. IVAN KOZLOVSKY, w.Orlov Cond.; Sakharov, Naum Walter & Nikitin (Pfs.): Songs by Beethoven, Schubert & Liszt. (Russia) Aquarius AQVR 395, recorded 1945-59. [A jewel of a recital, beautifully sung and fabulously well-recorded!] - 4607123631645
“What an extraordinary disc! Ivan Kozlovsky was a Ukrainian tenor and one of the great stars of the Bolshoi Opera for decades. As both an audience favorite and a singer beloved by Joseph Stalin, he could have easily rested on his operatic laurels. He sang a repertoire of about 50 operas, from Puccini and Verdi to Gounod and Wagner (he recorded a complete LOHENGRIN [#OP0251]) as well as Russian works both well-known and unusual. His Lensky was considered one of the great operatic portrayals of the twentieth century, and he was unparalleled as the Fool in BORIS GODUNOV [OP3152]. But he had a musical curiosity that went well beyond the opera house, even though he never sang outside of Russia and sang everything in the Russian language (which was the custom at that time and place). He left gorgeous recordings of Chausson’s ‘Poème de l’amour et de la mer'; and Britten’s ‘Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings’ with Rozhdestvensky conducting. He also sang Bach cantatas, Russian and Ukrainian folksongs, and a large swath of German Lieder.
Kozlovsky’s voice is for some listeners an acquired taste. I have acquired it, and find it beautiful. But reaction to voices is personal, and some listeners find it rather white in tone. What is inarguable is his remarkable control of dynamics, astonishing imagination in shaping phrases, and his innate feel for different musical styles. Even singing in Russian, his Verdi sounds exactly as Verdi should, his Faust [OP0164] is impeccably stylish, and for the most part his Lieder is sung with extraordinary sensitivity. He uses the whole dynamic range between the extremes of pianissimo and fortissimo with great subtlety. He could spin a cantabile line in a way equaled by few, his intonation was impeccable, and he could vary the color of his timbre to reflect the dramatic situation being depicted by the music. In these songs, we hear a few operatic flourishes here (in Beethoven’s ‘Mit einem gemalten Band’ for example, or Liszt’s ‘O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst’ - which is better known as ‘Liebesträum’). But those moments of grandeur are actually appropriate.
What is exquisite is the hushed beauty of songs like ‘Die stille Wasserrose’ of Liszt and ‘Ihr Bild’ of Schubert. Frankly, those two songs alone are so lovely that they are worth the price of the disc. He is attuned to the texts and their meanings, so the sense of heartbreak the distance between the singer and his lover in Beethoven’s great cycle AN DIE FERNE GELIEBTE is vividly conveyed. The last five Schubert songs listed in the headnote are from DIE SCHÖNE MÜLLERIN, and they make one wish he had recorded the entire cycle.
Nothing here is sung without thought or imagination, and throughout one is struck by the singer’s tonal imagination. His accompanists are all excellent (they are Matvei Sakharov, Naum Walter, and Piotr Nikitin), playing with insight and with a clear sense that they are listening and reacting to the singer. The Schubert ‘Ständchen’ is the one song given with an orchestral accompaniment, and Alexander Orlov’s conducting is tasteful and elegant (Orlov is the conductor on Kozlovsky’s great recording of WERTHER [OP0512]).
Aquarius has transferred these recordings cleanly; I have a number of them on Melodiya LPs, and these are the equal of the best of those LPs, and frankly better than many of them. Most of the recordings date from the 1940s, though some from the late 1950s. Kozlovsky sang well into his 60s (he recorded a fine LA BOHÈME at the age of 60) [OP3213], and gave successful recitals even in his 70s, retaining the evenness of tone and unique breath control to the end.
There are fine notes about the tenor’s concert repertoire and these recordings, but no texts. Most serious vocal collectors will have or be able to find the texts and translations (though not the Russian texts he sings). Anyone who is seriously interested in the vocal arts should have this quite extraordinary recording. I obtained it from Norbeck, Peters, & Ford (norpete.com).”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Kozlovsky's voice was distinguished for its beautiful high register and rich palette of shadings. He sang more than 50 operatic rôles, and was especially famous as Lensky in EUGENE ONÉGIN. They say that Ivan Kozlovsky considered his voice as his one and only possession and prayed every morning thanking the Lord for the priceless gift He gave him.”
- Olga Fyodorova
“One way of dividing the world seems to be into admirers and detractors of Ivan Kozlovsky. For the former, the succulent, dripping sweetness of the Russian tenor provides a paragon of bel canto, exquisite, long-held soft head notes, phrases caressed and pressed out of familiar shape….the portrait of an extraordinary singer….”
- Max Loppert, OPERA ON RECORD, Vol. I, pp.29-30