Dmitri Hvorostovsky – review

Barbican, London

Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky's latest recital took place on the eve of the Liszt bicentenary and a short selection of the composer's songs – Oh! Quand Je Dors and two of the Petrarch Sonnets – formed the centrepiece of his programme. We don't associate Hvorostovsky with this material, but he was an ideal interpreter.

Liszt's songs aren't easy: many were written with operatic stars in mind and were strongly influenced by the bel canto composers he in turn admired. Hvorostovsky is terribly handsome and glamorous – not an absolute requirement for Liszt, but it helps – and inhabits the predominantly erotic subject matter with just the right touch of histrionic intensity.

Most important, though, are his evenness of tone and security of technique. He allows Liszt's long lines to flow without so much as a hint of effort. Phrases were exquisitely shaped, texts delivered unobtrusively but with a sensuality that could be suggestive in the extreme. This is some of the greatest Liszt singing I've heard, so it was a shame that pianist Ivari Ilja occasionally didn't match the singer's poetic fervour.

For the rest of the recital we were in more familiar Hvorostovsky territory with French and Russian music. His Fauré was ravishing, if heavyweight. Sergei Taneyev may not have been the greatest of composers, but songs like Menuet and The Winter Road revealed the singer's strengths as an ironist. Grand passion returned to the fore in Tchaikovsky's Six Romances Op 73, sung with flagrant intensity. His fans cheered him to the rafters after every song, which occasionally proved intrusive.


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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