Friday, February 12, 2010

Russian Romances

A stunning thing arrived in my mailbox a day or so ago from Dallas, the cellist Eugene Osadchy's new CD recorded with the young pianist Anastasia Markina and called Russian Romances — Joys and Sorrows.
I'm disclosing that Eugene is a friend of mine but that has absolutely nothing to do with it. I'd be in raptures about this CD if he were an enemy, though after this we wouldn't be enemies long if I had my way about it.
Eugene used to be principal cellist with the CBC Radio Orchestera, then moved with his wife and son to Dallas, where he's a professor of cello at the University of North Texas while keeping a solo career that takes him around the world. Markina was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia. Together they play his transcription of songs and arias by Tchaikovsky and Rakhmaninov and one all but unknown song by Nikolai Medtner.
It is, as said, a rapturous album that any cello lover would cherish. You rarely (and yes I'm including Yo-Yo Ma) hear cello playing like this, so rich in tone, so expressively varied in vibrato, and above all, so vocal; this is an album of what were originally songs, after all. There are of course words to Lensky's aria just before the fatal duel in Eugene Onegin, which he knows he'll lose, but even if you don't know what those heart-breaking words are, Osadchy plays so plangently and movingly, yet with such admirable control, that you should be able to intuit what those words are. The way he scales climaxes alone is a lesson in the emotional power of graduation.
And Markina is a phenomenon. No praise could be too high for her, a virtuoso yet one who plays with her nerves attuned to what makes musical partnering work: listening. And she knows, to go by her postludes in two of the songs, when to surge ahead. I can't think of a pianist who makes the fearsomely difficult piano part in Rakhmaninov's Spring Waters come off better.
CDs will go on sale via Amazon on March 16th, or they can be ordered directly from Lena Osadchy at They sell for $15USD including delivery or CAD$17. Eugene says he and Markina are planning a second CD soon, possibly Shostakovich and Brahms.

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