This is not a lullaby - Malkin, Belogurov, Fridman
Classical - Vocal
Weinberg: Rocking the Child*, Op. 110
Malkin: 5 Russian Songs*
Tavener: Akhmatova Songs^
Channa Malkin (soprano)
Artem Belogurov* (piano)
Maya Fridman^ (cello)
A FRESH TAKE ON MOTHERHOOD AS A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
Soprano Channa Malkin made her operatic debut at age 16 as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Dutch National Opera. Since then, she has become a sought-after soloist. Highlights include Handel’s Dixit Dominus and William Hayes’ The Fall of Jericho with Holland Baroque, as well as Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the baton of Mariss Jansons. Channa is known for her wide expertise, from baroque to Sephardic chamber music. “Her voice is beautiful: a young sound, a mature treatment. Her storytelling is captivating” (Merlijn Kerkhof in De Volkskrant about her debut album ‘Songs of Love and Exile’).
The birth of her son Ezra formed a new source of inspiration, with motherhood as a central theme. On her new album for the audiophile label TRPTK ‘This is not a lullaby’, she highlights the immense emotional impact of becoming a mother with an unconventional choice of repertoire by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Sir John Tavener, and her father Josef Malkin.
Channa came across Weinberg’s song cycle ‘Rocking the child’ during one of many sleepless nights with her baby, and was instantly touched by its honest, unidealized portrayal of a mother’s experience. The cycle is based on the works of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral from her book ‘Ternura’ (Tenderness, 1924).
Josef Malkin, Channa’s father, composed his ‘Five Russian Songs’ on the colourful and haunting poems of Ilya Selvinsky, Boris Ryzhy, Vladimir Riabokon and Anna Akhmatova. Malkin, born in Tbilisi, Georgia, was a violinist in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for over 25 years, and his music has been performed by top orchestras and performers across Europe and the United States.
Of all contemporary composers, Sir John Tavener is one of the most iconic. His work is steeped in a deep spirituality, and has a profound impact on the listener. His haunting ‘Akhmatova Songs’ were inspired by the oeuvre of the prolific Russian poet Anna Akhmatova.
What makes this release extra special is Malkin’s collaboration with Maya Fridman, winner of the Dutch Classical Talent Prize, and the extraordinary pianist Artem Belogurov, who regularly performs in the main concert halls of Europe and the United States. The three artists: “In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we are excited to bring some positivity and share this story about motherhood with the world”.
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Review by Mark Werlin - May 28, 2021
In this remarkable recital SACD, soprano Channa Malkin, pianist Artem Belogurov, and cellist Maya Fridman present a program of Russian-language art songs by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Josef Malkin, and Sir John Tavener, on the theme of motherhood. The title of the album, “This is not a lullaby”, should alert listeners that these works, by composers and poets who survived the most turbulent and troubling historical circumstances of the 20th century, view the experience of motherhood with an unsentimental gaze.
The life of Mieczyslaw Weinberg was shadowed by anti-Semitism, first, in his native Poland and later, in the Soviet Union. Weinberg, a rising young pianist and composer, escaped the Nazi Occupation only to encounter suspicion and hostility at the highest levels of Soviet cultural life. It was the intervention of his close friend Dmitri Shostakovich, and the sudden death of Stalin, that saved him from a death sentence on trumped-up charges. A survivor, he carried the burden of survivor’s guilt, which is etched deeply into his work.
In recent years, the compositions of Weinberg have been reappraised and more widely performed; several of his symphonies and concertos, led by conductor Thord Svedlund, were issued by Chandos on SACD, and many of his chamber works are now available on CD and hi-res albums. Weinberg’s post-Romantic musical language, his allusions to Jewish and Polish folk melodies, and a tendency to follow what Alex Ross calls “quizzical detours”, evades facile description; perhaps that uncertainty is what resonates in our current, unsettled time.
The songs of “Rocking the Child, Op. 110”, which Channa Malkin found one night after putting her infant son to sleep, were set by Weinberg to Russian-language translations of texts by the Chilean poet and humanitarian activist Gabriela Mistral. The poems are as relevant today as at the time they were first published, nearly a century ago; unsparing dispatches from the frontlines of hardship and poverty, where the communion of child and mother offers a glimpse of a better future. In dialogue with pianist Artem Belogurov, Malkin finds a path to hope through the sorrowful field of Mistral’s poetry and Weinberg’s haunting melodies, and her narrative sensibility draws the cycle of miniatures into a coherent form.
As the child of Russian-speaking musicians, Channa Malkin brings native-speaker fluency and a familial connection to her interpretation of “Five Russian Songs”, composed by her father, Josef Malkin. Texts from poets Ilya Selvinsky, Vladimir Riabokon, Boris Ryzhy, and Ana Akhmatova are published in the album booklet in English translations by composer Malkin—a gift to non-Russian speakers. Conveying the dreamlike memories of Riabokon, the metaphorical wreckage of Ryzhy’s brief life, and the chill of Akhmatova’s uncomforting lullaby, Malkin strikes a careful balance between pure lyricism and dramatic intensity.
For Malkin, as an artist and a mother, a goal in making this album was to bring attention to overlooked experiences of motherhood, from the perspective of women poets. The work of Anna Akhmatova, written at great personal expense under oppressive conditions, captures that alternative perspective. In setting poems by Akhmatova to music, British composer John Tavener weaves together two contrasting strands of Russian culture: the traditional and the modern. Tavener’s conversion to the Russian Orthodox faith in 1977 inspired his composition of new choral works based on the modes of Orthodox liturgy. The lightness of Tavener’s melodies illuminates Akhmatova’s ironic odes to fellow poets, and musings on her own internal exile. Sensitive and sympathetic accompaniment by cellist Maya Fridman adds a wordless voice to Malkin’s; though Akhmatova’s texts are grounded in melancholy, these performances find joyous release.
As with all of his productions, TRPTK label chief and engineer Brendon Heinst delivers first-rate recorded sound. The recording was done at De Philharmonie, Grote Zaal in Haarlem, the Netherlands. TRPTK performs a valuable service to its artists by providing a framework for creative and often unconventional recital programs. Maya Fridman can be heard on TRPTK in a variety of settings, from her own edition of Prokofiev’s “The Fiery Angel” for piano and cello with Artem Belogurov, to duets with violinist Merel Vercammen, and works by Schnittke, Vasks and Pärt.
This was my first acquaintance with the gifted lyric coloratura soprano Channa Malkin, who has appeared on the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra stage, in collaborations with ensembles La Sfera Armoniosa and Holland Baroque, and in the highly successful multimedia stage entertainment, “Handel goes Tinder.” Malkin cites as influences and role models the singers Lisette Oropesa, Julia Lezhneva, Anna Moffo, and Mirella Freni.
She posts this credo on her website:
“I firmly believe there is a much bigger audience out there for classical music than we can imagine.”
Her creative use of theatrical performance and the technologies of social media is connecting this outstanding album to that audience.
Copyright © 2021 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net