By Lawrence Budmen

The charismatic Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky returned to Miami with nothing less than a mini-history of Russian music, presented by the Concert Association of Florida on Friday at the Knight Concert Hall. With a substantial orchestra, chorus, and folk ensemble providing support, Hvorostovsky’ s traveling variety show did not lack ambition, spanning three centuries of sacred and secular composition. 

Mining some of the same liturgical riches offered by the Russian Patriarchate Choir in the same hall the previous week, Moscow’s Academy of Choral Art opened with the sculpted classicism of the Cherubic Hymn by Dimitri Bortniansky. This youthful group produced choral sonorities of remarkable depth and range, the earthy altos and black toned basses offering a textbook example of Russian vocal technique. 

Joining the choir for acappella renditions of three sacred works, Hvorostovsky unleashed his rotund, darkly molten baritone with fervent reserve, capturing the music’ s modal harmonies and austere texture. His beautiful soft tones held the audience enthralled; yet his dusky lower register had the resonance and weight of a bass. 

Russian opera has long been the centerpiece of Hvorostovsky’s wide ranging repertoire. In an aria from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Tsar’ s Bride, his bold, almost conversational declamation telegraphed sinister, terrifying overtones. American born Constantine Orbelian drew incisive, energetic playing from the excellent Moscow Chamber Orchestra.

The Peasants’ Chorus from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin served as prelude to Onegin’s coldly cynical rejection of Tatiana’s love letter Hvorostovsky’s cerebral delivery underscored the protagonist’s heartless world weariness. In Prince Yeletsky’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame, the baritone’ s seamless legato line poured forth in one unbroken arc. 

The Style of 5 Folk Ensemble of St. Petersburg, combining the enchanting sounds of balalaikas and accordion with electronic instruments, joined the choir for a vibrantly colorful medley of Russian folk songs (in a brilliant arrangement by Evgeni Stetsyuk). In three haunting Russian romances, Hvorostovsky’s straightforward, unaffected singing exuded ardor and passion. 

Turning to pop music of the Soviet era, Hvorostovsky sang into a microphone with the ease and informality of a pop crooner. He wove the hypnotic melody of Tenderness by Alexandra Pakhmutova in the soft tones of a vocal whisper. Stentorian versions of some Russian soft rock numbers were compromised by overly slick, commercial arrangements. 

Repeated ovations from an audience that included many of the singer’s countrymen brought encores – Moscow Nights and Dark Eyes, sung with velvety baritonal finesse.

Copyright Sun-Sentinel


Home   Articles   Music News   Program Notes    Links   Opera  Ballet   Concert   Recordings    Travel   Contact  


All material copyright protected - Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, Florida USA

This site designed and maintained by
This site best viewed using Internet Explorer 5.0 at 800x600