SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

YEVSTIGNEY FOMIN: Orfeo ed Euridice – Alexey Ivashchenko (Orfeo)/ Maria Shorstovo (Euridice)/ Pratum Integrum Orch./ Horn Orch. of Russia/ Pavel Serbin – Caro Mitis

Who knew this kind of music was being created in Baroque Russia? But could we not have had a little more of it?

Published on May 7, 2013

YEVSTIGNEY FOMIN: Orfeo ed Euridice – Alexey Ivashchenko (Orfeo)/ Maria Shorstovo (Euridice)/ Pratum Integrum Orch./ The Horn Orch. of Russia/ Pavel Serbin – Caro Mitis multichannel SACD CM 0012008, 41:21 [Distr. by Albany] ***1/2:

Russian opera lagged—considerably, about 100 years—behind what was happening in Europe. Even a well-worn and highly popular story like Orpheus and Eurydice, which was taken up by Peri and Caccini in 1600 and 1602, and then memorably by Monteverdi in 1607, was not something that hit Russian shores until well into the 1700s. Catherine the Great was known to have written opera librettos, and was one who dwelt on the arts in general, but it was predecessor Peter the Great who first allowed such European stories to infiltrate the artistic strata of Russian society. Even then, things took a long time to catch on, with foreign troupes inevitably touring in their own language, and it was the Russian authors and poets who tended to set the dramatic agenda with composers writing music as an accompaniment.

Yevstigney Ipatyevich Fomin (1761-1800) was one of the earliest and most talented of the early Slavic composers to seriously study the music of the Italian opera at the time, graduating from the St. Petersburg Academy of the Arts and high-tailing it off to Bologna where he studied at the highly-regarded Accademia Filarmonica. No doubt during his four years there he heard the “rage” opera of the day, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, and the influence of this masterpiece proved quite fertile for the Russian, who took pains to explore the dramatic contents of the libretto as regards the characterizations of the heroes. The melodrama itself is like hearing a singspiel with only spoken dialog and no arias. This doesn’t keep the music from being very exciting, colorful, and virtuosic, though stylistically it is about 35 years behind where the classical trends of Europe were at the time. Nevertheless, the music provides most of the dramatic interest here, even if you can understand the Russian libretto. Fomin effectively touches on the dark and sophisticated tendencies of the new strum und drang and mimics them very effectively indeed, with some passages that would have made Haydn proud and thrilled CPE Bach.

Unfortunately it if difficult to get as excited about the spoken dialog, and the story will get somewhat watered down for non-Russian speakers. No matter—even if in English the words would not compete with Fomin’s spectacular music.

I do wish there was more of it though—45 minutes is surely too short, and I can’t believe that something else couldn’t have been added, especially from a composer of whom little to nothing is known. The surround sound is vibrant and palpably uplifting, with much clarity.

—Steven Ritter

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