Elisabeth Söderström – The Russian Songbook

Elisabeth Söderström – The Russian Songbook
Elisabeth Söderström
Catalogue No.

Elisabeth Söderström was a born storyteller. She told stories not just in music, but also peppered her recitals on stage with tales and anecdotes. It made her a perfect interpreter for the collection of children’s songs by Mussorgsky, Prokofiev and Gretchaninov that she recorded with Vladimir Ashkenazy in 1977–78 and which appear on CD2 of this set. The first (LP) issue was greeted with enthusiasm by Gramophone reviewer W.S.M. with the words ‘the best record of song to appear in 1979’. It later went on to win the 1979 Gramophone’s Solo Vocal Award. But there was more: a selection of Tchaikovsky songs over two LPs; a substantial survey of the Rachmaninov songs (‘one of the gramophone’s crown jewels’ wrote John Steane in Gramophone) as well as the complete Sibelius songs

Born in Stockholm on 7 May, 1927 to a Russian mother and Swedish father, Söderström was a talented recitalist, as much in demand in the concert hall as she was in the opera theatre. From 1991–96, she also directed the Drottingholm Festival Opera with much success. The two LPs of Tchaikovsky songs were issued in part by Decca on CD and this is their first complete release in this format. Overshadowed by his orchestral works, they are nonetheless absolute gems, with their piano parts of almost orchestral scope. Ashkenazy’s is, too, the disembodied voice that speaks a few of Pushkin’s lines in the early setting of Zemfira’s song.

‘Söderström came to be known internationally in the late 1950s,’ wrote John Steane, ‘and over the next three decades, on until her retirement from singing in the early 1990s she never “blotted her copybook”. She neither sought nor won cheap success.’ Söderström passed away in Stockholm on 20 November 2009, aged 82, from complications from a stroke.


CD 1
1 The cuckoo, Op. 54 No. 8
2 Evening, Op. 27 No. 4)
3 The nightingale, Op. 60 No. 4
4 Last night, Op. 60 No. 1
5 None but the lonely heart, Op. 6 No. 6
6 Lullaby, Op. 16 No. 1
7 Why?, Op. 6 No. 5
8 The frightening moment, Op. 28 No. 6
9 Whether the day reigns, Op. 47 No. 6
10 Spring , Op. 54 No. 9
11 Simple words, Op. 60 No. 5
12 Mezza notte
13 Serenade, Op. 65 No. 1
14 Deception, Op. 65 No. 2
15 Poème d’October, Op. 65 No. 4
16 Les larmes, Op. 65 No. 5
17 The sun has slipped from sight, Op. 73 No. 4
18 As on hot ashes, Op. 25 No. 2
19 My protector, my angel, my friend
20 Zemfira’s song
21 Do not believe it, my friend, Op. 6 No. 1
22 To forget so soon
23 O do sing that song, Op. 16 No. 4
24 Spirit my heart away
25 Why did I dream of you?, Op. 28 No. 3
26 It was in the early spring, Op. 38 No. 2
27 Amid the noise of the ball, Op. 38 No. 3
28 If only I’d known, Op. 47 No. 1

CD 2
1 Was I not a little blade of grass?, Op. 47 No. 7
2 My little garden, Op. 54 No. 4
3 Do not ask, Op. 57 No. 3
4 This, our first reunion, Op. 63 No. 4
5 Serenade, Op. 63 No. 6
6 Rondel, Op. 65 No. 6
7 We sat together, Op. 73 No. 1
8 Behind the window, in the shadow, Op. 60 No. 10

9-15 The Nursery

16 Gadkiy Utenok (The Ugly Duckling), Op. 18

17-21 The Lane – Five Children’s Songs, Op. 89

Elisabeth Söderström, soprano
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano

Recording information

Recording Producers: Richard Beswick (CD1: 1-5, 7-10, CD2: 9-15); James Walker (CD1: 6, 11-28, CD2: 1-6, 16-21); Christopher Raeburn (CD2: 7, 8)
Balance Engineers: Simon Eadon, Colin Moorfoot (CD1: 1-18); Colin Moorfoot (CD1: 19-28, CD2: 1-6, 9-15); Simon Eadon (CD2: 16-21); John Pellowe (CD2: 7, 8)
Recording Locations: All Saints’ Church, Petersham, Surrey, UK, April 1978 (CD2: 16-21); St. George the Martyr, London, UK, June 1979 (CD1: 1-5, 7-10), March 1980 (CD1: 6, 11-18); Kingsway Hall, London, UK, June 1982 (CD1: 19-28, CD2: 1-6); Rosslyn Hill Chapel, London, UK, June 1977 (CD2: 9-15), November 1981 (CD2: 7, 8)


‘The Maikov Lullaby is enchantingly done, especially with the gentle wash of piano tone in the background from Ashkenazy … a delightful, excellently recorded recital of some songs of which we know too little … Tchaikovsky wrote some exquisite songs; and it is splendid to have them being explored so skilfully, intelligently and sensitively’ (Tchaikovsky Songs) Gramophone

‘brilliant … endearing … musicianly’ (Songs for Children) Gramophone