A Rich, and Enriching, Exploration of Russian Song

Joan Reinthaler
Monday, January 17, 2005; Page C05

Most of the time, when we go to a concert, we're offered a program of music without much context … how much richer and more intriguing is the kind of program Steven Blier brought to the Kennedy Center on Friday with a group from his New York Festival of Song, under the auspices of the Vocal Arts Society.

First there was the music, 20th-century Russian songs with texts by Anna Akhmatova … Alexander Blok and the poets who influenced them or whom they influenced. Illuminating this collection of relatively unknown songs were poems (elegantly read by the actress Kathleen Chalfant) that reflected and enlarged on the musical texts. Giving all of this shape and life were Blier's own stories, comments, mini-biographies and asides about the relationships between the composers and the poets … you left the hall feeling enriched, enlightened, entertained and grateful for the experience.

Soprano Dina Kuznetsova and baritone Nicolai Janitzky shared the Terrace Theater stage … Each has a voice capable of the most subtle expression, as well as the common sense and musical imagination to use that voice well. …violinist Juliette Kang and cellist Thomas Kraines, both splendid artists, joined the group for Shostakovich's "Romance-Suite, on Poems by Alexander Blok,"

Sergei Rachmaninoff


The Little Island (Balmont)
A Passing Breeze (Balmont)
“A-oo!” (Balmont)

Sergei Prokofiev

Five Poems by Anna Akhmatova
1. The Room Was Filled with Sunlight
2. Real Tenderness
3. Memory of the Sun
4. Good Day!
5. The Grey-Eyed King

Georgii Sviridov

From Russia Cast Adrift (Yesenin)
I Left My Home Behind
Russia Cast Adrift
Beyond the Hills of the Milky Way
An Owl Cries in Autumn
I Believe in Happiness
O My Homeland, O Happy and Eternal Hour

Nicolai Slonimsky

Song of the Final Meeting (Akhmatova)
A Girl Was Singing in the Church Choir (Blok)

Pyotr Ilyitch Tchikovsky

The Nightingale (Pushkin)
The Statue at Tsartskoye-Selo (Pushkin)

Dmitri Shostakovich

Romance-Suite, on poems by Alexander Blok
Ophelia’s Song
Hamayun, the Prophetic Bird
We were together…
The City Sleeps
Mysterious Signs

Sergei Rachmaninoff

The Little Island