The prestigious Tchaikovsky International Competitions in Moscow were begun in 1958 for pianists; violinists and cellists were added in 1962 and singers in 1966, and Melodiya/BMG has been bringing out recordings made during the course of all these events. The first volume (33219) contained exciting performances of Tchaikovsky and Liszt concertos by the 1962 co-winners, Vladimir Ashkenazy and John Ogdon; the second volume (52959) was less successful, with largely uninteresting performances from 1966, 1978, and 1986 by Misha Dichter, Barry Douglas, and Mikhail Pletnev. They turn their attention to the singers in this third volume, again with qualified results.
The problem may lie in the stress of competition, and perhaps also in the work of the recording engineers, but many of these singers – who won various prizes in 1966, 1970, 1974, 1982, and 1986 – seem ill at ease on this disc and often have an unpleasantly strident edge to their voices. All of them have had distinguished careers, and they sound very much better in their subsequent recordings. Evgeni Nestorenko and Elena Obraztsova are exceptions; the former's arias from Borodin's Prince Igor and Rachmaninoff's Aleko are beautifully sung, with warmth, sonority, and expressiveness, and the latter gives us a sumptuous rendition of "Mon cur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila and a sexy version of Carmen's Habañera. Simon Estes is particularly disappointing; his "Catalog Aria" from Don Giovanni is insensitive and humorless. It should have been more interesting to hear these singers at an early stage in their careers than it proves to be in this recording.
Copyright © 1999, Alexander J. Morin