MEDTNER: 6 Poems by A. Pushkin. 5 Poems by Tyutchev & Fet. 4 Songs, Op. 45. 7 Lieder, Op. 46 / Sofia Fomina, sop; Alexander Karpeyev, pno / Chandos CHAN 20171
Sofia Fomina, described in the notes as a “rising star soprano” noted for her Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, sings here a collection of Nikolai Medtner’s musically interesting and technically challenging songs. Despite the fact that Ekaterina Levental is in the process of recording all of Medtner’s songs for Brilliant Classics, I thought I would investigate this disc.
Fomina has an attractive but very Slavic-sounding soprano voice with a light flutter-vibrato. She is also a very good interpreter, getting into the words of the songs (all lyrics, thank goodness, printed in the accompanying booklet) and thus projecting the emotions strongly. Pianist Alexander Karpeyev is a sensitive accompanist with an excellent technique, but to my ears he didn’t quite connect with the emotion of Medtner’s songs as well as Fomina did.
I did, however, note a few features of Fomina’s singing that raised questions. One is that she seems to have an extremely small, or narrow, range of volume available to her. The difference between her piano and her forte is not enough to make a real impression on the listener. Whether this is due to her technique or simply because she has a very small voice, I do not know, but I found this to be an impediment in certain songs such as “Spanish Romance” where a wider dynamic range is necessary to convey the song to its fullest extent. For an example of what I mean, try to think of Elly Ameling singing the “Abscheulischer” from Fidelio, It just wouldn’t work.
In addition, Fomina sometimes pushes her small voice too hard, as in “Arion,” which causes a shrill and not a silvery sound. I can foresee that if she continues to use her voice this way, it will not last more than five years before serious strain and possibly a wobble will creep in.
Yet there is the music and the words, and both are served well. The harmony of the ninth song, titled simply “Impromptu” (to lyrics by Fet), is extremely modern for its time. An interesting alternative to the Levental series, then. Considering the paucity of Medtner song recordings, one more is certainly welcome and as I say, Fomina handles the texts of the songs with great skill.
—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley
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