“He looked like Elvis and sang like a God” The Times
When Dmitri Hvorostovsky won BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in 1989 it was immediately obvious that the opera world had a new star: handsome, charismatic, blessed with an extraordinarily beautiful voice, the artistry and the charisma to bring audiences to their feet. And he did just that, over the course of the next quarter-century, until a diagnosis of brain cancer brought his career to a sudden halt and led to his tragically early death in 2017, at just 55 years old.
However, the Siberian baritone stood out among his contemporaries for his commitment to recital repertoire and his determination to bring his native genre of Russian Romances to audiences around the world, both in concert and on record. He could have filled football stadiums with operatic medleys, but he chose instead to sing of spring torrents and dark nights to tiny recital audiences. Much of this repertoire he also recorded for Philips, and in tribute to his memory on the fifth anniversary of his passing, Eloquence has brought together all the recital albums he made for the label during the glorious spring of his career in the 1990s.
To begin with, there is the selection of Verdi and Tchaikovsky arias which confirmed that Hvorostovsky’s Cardiff triumph had been no flash in the pan. Critics and audiences alike were taken aback by the baritone’s artistic agility as he jumped back to the 18th century with a classic album of ‘arie antiche’ such as would have been standard fare for his vocal heroes, Bastianini and Lisitsian. Though further orchestrally accompanied discs followed, the core of the set lies in Hvorostovsky’s acutely sensitive response to the song repertoire of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Mussorgsky and (coming up to date) Gyorgy Sviridov. He also forged a profound connection with the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir on albums of folk songs and Orthodox hymns.
To accompany the set, Hvorostovsky’s Philips producer Anna Barry contributes a new, extensive and personal memoir of working with the baritone and going behind the scenes of each recording. One of the great voices of recent decades comes to life once more in this original jacket collection.
Tchaikovsky & Verdi Arias
Dark Eyes – Russian Folk Songs
Bel Canto Arias
Songs and Dances of Death
My Restless Soul
Russia Cast Adrift
Kalinka – Russian Folk Songs
Sir Neville Marriner
Arias & Duets
“This is a full and rich baritone voice, glamorous in sheen, its chief glory being its middle register, which the singer proudly unfolds in one long cantilena after another.” Opera, September 1990 (Tchaikovsky and Verdi arias)
“The finest new baritone voice and the most impressive first operatic recital heard on records for some years.” Gramophone, October 1990 (Tchaikovsky and Verdi arias)
“No matter where you choose to begin, you will feel compelled to listen to the entire sequence. The voice, first of all, is phenomenal in its beauty and amplitude … What confronts us is not just an exceptional voice but a noble artist.” Stereo Review, October 1990 (Tchaikovsky and Verdi arias)
“Hvorostovsky sounds like the genuine article. His voice is full, rich, darkish, and vibrant.” Fanfare, September 1991 (Russian Romances)
“Hvorostovsky sings with unaffected sincerity; there is no artiness in his delivery. You feel his belief in these songs and his desire to communicate their meaning.” Stereo Review, October 1991 (Russian Romances)
“Siberia’s greatest recent gift to opera … performs with authenticity, vocal beauty, relish and masculine strength.” Stereo Review, April 1993 (Dark Eyes)
“The baritone has done nothing better than his impersonation of the devil so ingeniously characterised by [Rubinstein] … undoubtedly Hvorostovsky’s most enjoyable recital to date, immeasurably helped by the support and the excellent recording.” Gramophone, May 1994 (Songs and Dances of Death)
“Hvorostovsky sings with such enthusiasm and intensity that one is soon won over.” Opera, October 1994 (Bel Canto Arias)
“The artist is on great form … Despite the prevailing mood of almost unrelieved gloom, this is a splendid recital enriched by Mikhail Arkadiev’s virtuosic pianism.” Stereo Review, March 1996 (My Restless Soul)
“What sets him apart from the majority of operatic singers is his wish to give about half his time to recitals, specializing in the Russian literature .. These performances are filled with elegance. Flowing lyric phrases are shaped with exquisite sensitivity for nuance and expression.” Fanfare, May 1996 (My Restless Soul)
“Sviridov couldn’t have hoped for a more accomplished and committed champion than Hvorostovsky.” Stereo Review, December 1996 (Russia Cast Adrift)
“Hvorostovsky sings his relatively brief solos with rich tone and ringing fervour, warmly blending with the choral body but delivering a stunning A natural in the penultimate section.” Stereo Review, May 1997 (Credo)
“The cut of the music suits him well enough and he brings with him the style that he has acquired from the bel canto repertoire. That means beauty of tone and elegance of phrasing … Hvorostovsky’s many admirers have no reason to hold back.” Gramophone, March 1998 (Arie antiche)
“Philips is lucky to have two gifted Russian artists under contract, and they make an exciting combination. Both reach their zenith in the scenes from The Tsar’s Bride; it is hard to imagine a better rendition.” Stereo Review, November 1998 (Duets with Olga Borodina)
“‘The Little Willow’ [is] sung with soaring intensity by Hvorostovsky… An unusual, enjoyable anthology.” Gramophone, February 1999 (Kalinka)