Review by: Dan Davis

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 4

It’s hard to find anything good to say about Stalin, but that monster must have been a discerning critic of singers, since his favorite Bolshoi tenor was Ivan Kozlovsky. The Ukrainian-born star was the artistic heir of the late-19th century bel canto tenors whose free approach to the written score often amounted to a rewrite. But while such interpretive freedom is a no-no these days, Kozlovsky’s unique timbre, stunning diminuendos, high-flying coloratura, and fervent intensity should enchant any lover of great singing. His repertoire ranged from Gluck to Britten, and he stamped each role with his personality. True, in standard Western opera repertoire he can sound odd (even aside from performing in the “wrong language”), as if a relic from the pre-Caruso era had been beamed onto a mid-20th century opera stage. But in less familiar items, such as the Russian arias on this well-filled Pearl disc, he’s immediately convincing. And in those Russian operas that have gained footholds in the West, he’s downright revelatory, as in Lensky’s arias from Eugene Onegin, where he suffuses every word and note with passion. Another familiar item is the Simpleton’s scene from Boris Godunov, one hearing of which is enough to turn you off any other tenor who attempts it.

On disc Kozlovsky’s bright voice can sound steely on forte high notes, but that may well be caused by wretched sound engineering, as common to Soviet recordings as concrete was to Soviet architecture. But that’s a small price to pay for recitatives freighted with emotional weight, as in the selection from Rubinstein’s The Demon, or for the singer’s shaping of the melodies in the “Song of the Indian Guest” from Rimsky’s Sadko and Bayan’s aria from Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla, among many such examples here. Pearl offers no texts and translations, but even non-Russian speakers will understand the emotions Kozlovsky conveys. The producers say this baker’s dozen of selections was recorded “circa 1947-1953”, and like Kozlovsky’s singing, they sound as if they were engineered decades earlier.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:


Arias by various composers, including Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Rubinstein, & Tchaikovsky -

  • Ivan Kozlovsky (tenor)

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