Following their acclaimed recording of Francesca da Rimini, the BBC Philharmonic and its Chief Conductor Gianandrea Noseda continue their exploration of Rachmaninoff's three one-act operas.
The Miserly Knight is arguably the finest of Rachmaninoff's operas. If circumstances had been more favourable he would have composed far more for the stage, but the three short operas he did complete show that he had all the makings of a great opera composer.
It is quite possible that The Miserly Knight was inspired by Rachmaninoff's spendthrift father who frittered away the family's fortune and, following his sister's death from diphtheria, separated from Sergei's mother. The financial incompetence of Rachmaninoff's father may have drawn the composer to Pushkin's ‘little tragedy' The Miserly Knight, that Pushkin wrote in the autumn of 1830 in which the rich Baron's destitute son is forced to consider murdering his father in order to access his inheritance. Pushkin's drama makes an excellent opera text, full of striking phrases and images, and almost ideal for musical setting in its sequence of episodes and ideas.
Opera is one of Gianandrea Noseda's great musical passions and it is a genre he has explored very effectively with the BBC Philharmonic. In September he became Music Director at Teatro Regio in Turin, one of Europe's leading opera houses, and he also appeared with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and La Scala, Turin.
'... the recording is remarkably accurate and richly detailed. ... Abdrazakov is the blackest of dark-voiced Russian basses. Muraev and Bezzubenkov are not far behind. Even the two tenors, Didyk and Bronder, are darkish sounding. Noseda is Italian, but he has made quite a reputation conducting Russian music. ... Here he draws the most beautiful sounds from the BBC Philharmonic - lush and broad - at an easy gait that supports the singers.' American Record Guide
'Rachmaninov decided in The Miserly Knight to set almost exactly word-for-word a prose poem-cum-play by Pushkin, one of his so-called ‘little tragedies' , Its central panel is a long monologue for the Baron (the Miserly Knight of the title), ... here sung with commanding presence and rich, malleable tone my Ildar Abdrazakov as he drools over his wealth and the cruel ways in which it has been amassed. He is well matched by, and contrasted with, the passionate tenor of Misha Didyk as his resentful son, Albert, and by the sly, ingratiating characterisation of the Moneylender by tenor Peter Bronder. Orchestral atmosphere, backed by a spectrum of colour comparable to that of the Second Symphony, is compellingly established by Noseda, whose theatrical instincts also reflect and enhance the opera's dramatic thrust.' Gramophone
'The strongest of Rachmaninov's three operas comes over with a sense of musical urgency and pure dramatic malevolence in this new recording, with the BBC Philharmonic exploring its wide yet consistently dark set of orchestral colours under the motivating baton of Gianandrea Noseda. All four characters are wonderfully presented here... An unforgiving and troubling piece, the opera registers potently here.' Opera Now
'The strengths of this carefully recorded, well-cast set are above all its non-Russian conductor, Gianandrea Noseda, masterly at pacing and responsive to orchestral colour, and its leading singer, Ildar Abdrazakov, certainly the finest bass voice to emerge from Russia in decades. This disc comes strongly recommended.' Performance / Recording BBC Music Magazine
'Noseda conducts with his trademark mixture of intensity and intelligence, and there are some fine insights into the way Rachmaninov creates a mood of oppressive malignancy. Ildar Abdrazakov as the baron is sinister and sexual ... The great performance comes from Misha Didyk as his son, Albert - a man as selfish as his father, but who is nevertheless pushed to despair and eventual violence by the latter's unspeakable behaviour.' The Guardian
'The central panel of the opera is a monologue for the avaricious Baron, sung with terrific intensity by Ildar Abdrazakov. The impetuosity of his cash-strapped son, Albert, blazes from the singing of Misha Didyk, with Peter Bronder and Sergey Murzaev bringing astuteness of characterisation to the smaller but crucial roles of the Moneylender and the Duke.
Noseda conducts the BBC Philharmonic with a sure feel for impetus and colour, etching in nuances of timbre and making the thematic fabric lucid while at the same time ensuring that the overall theatrical picture is vivid and emotionally telling. This is a richly rewarding disc.' The Telegraph
Disc of the Month: 'Noseda brings a verisimo-like passion to the music, compellingly building and releasing all the dramatic tension of Pushkin's tragedy. But special credit should go to the depth of characterisation offered by all of his chosen singers. His two central protagonists sustain their respective monologues with pace and conviction. Tenor Peter Bronder, reveals the dignity and honesty that Rachmaninov invests in the character of the moneylender - while Sergey Muraev's Duke is statuesque. So there it is whole hearted endorsement. Listening to a performance as committed as this, I simply can't see how any music enthusiast could fail to be moved and engaged by such a neat and thrilling piece of musical storytelling.' Classic FM Magazine