Dmitri Hvorostovsky has to have one of the greatest voices of all time - certainly of our time. His impeccable control - over the entire gamut from dramatic fortissimo to the gentlest pianissimo - his vocal range and technique coupled with a natural, almost boyish, charm and a dashing appearance place him in outer space. His beguilingly youthful smile which pops up from time to time has to make one feel good if it happens to be directed one's way or, for that matter, even if it is not.
This disc is pure vodka and caviar. DH sings these Russian gems from the heart. Characteristically, as with most Russia music, (how ever did `O Sole Mio' find its way onto the program?) there is an underlying shadow of melancholy even with the happier, more rollicking melodies. The beautiful final encore (Tchaikovsky's Evening Star) has the audience pulling out the Kleenex - even some of the grumpy old Russian `bears' are mopping up the fluid and his closing note `pianissimo' has to be a `Guinness Book of Records' contender for the goose-bumpiest note ever recorded. It brought the audience to its feet for a wild ovation.
Even the American conductor, Constantine Orbelian, looks Russian. The addition of folk instruments to the mix gives the music haunting national authenticity. From the ethereal opening number to the exuberant Khachaturian Waltz the orchestra is everything for which one could wish.
I never saw such a pile-up of flowers. All the florists in St. Petersburg had to have been stripped!
On the minus side:
The audio track leaves a lot to be desired especially from the perspective of the orchestra. It lacks clarity and focus. In fairness one must state that recording a concert `live' in a vast arena is no easy task.
The audience appeared to me to take forever to warm up. Their initial response was reserved and almost forced.
The arena is vast and the stage stretches to infinity. The orchestra is spaced out which gives the impression that the musicians are only remotely connected. These particular factors rob the performance of the warmth and intimacy that this type of music deserves.
One wonders how "O Sole Mio" arrived on the scene. It is surely the proverbial bottle of pop at a bootlegger's convention. Having said which, one must add that DH's rendition is marvelous. What a difference between his delicious romanticism and Pavarotti's painful, corset-splitting pyrotechnics which leave one nervously eyeing the plaster on the ceiling.