A wonderful mixture of power, passion, beauty and expressive intensity, the distinguished Bulgarian-born bass, Nicolai Ghiaurov was a fine exponent of many aspects of opera and song, not least the Italian and French schools. He and his second wife, the great Mirella Freni, made a formidable operatic duo. Now dead for over a decade it is timely that Decca honour Ghiaurov with this generous and varied survey of his work in the field of Russian music.
In the operatic realm, we have a selection of important arias sung with the London Symphony under Sir Edward Downes. Ghiaurov presents impressive characterisations in roles from Eugene Onegin, Prince Igor and most notably Boris Godunov, for which he became particularly famous.
A selection of songs by Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Glinka, Rubinstein, and the now-forgotten Dargomyzhsky, shows the singer to be capable of great warmth and intimacy, especially in favourites such as None but the Lonely Heart and Rubinstein’s Melody.
Ten folksongs performed with the Kavel Orchestra and Chorus under Atanas Margaritov are a welcome reminder of the other side of Russian music which Ghiaurov obviously enjoyed. The lusty singing of the male chorus together with a band that includes accordions and balalaikas make for a rousing conclusion to the set. Texts and translations (even on a website) would have been helpful, but at this price we still get pretty good value for money.