Saturday, April 13, 2013


Mark Reizen, at 79  sings:

Tchaikovsky, In the midst of the ball

In the midst of the noisy ball,
amid the anxious bustle of life,
I caught sight of you,
your face, an enigma.

Only your eyes gazed sadly.
Your divine voice
Sounded like pipes from afar,
Like the dancing waves of the sea.
Your delicate form entranced me,
and your pensiveness,
your sad yet merry laughter,
has permeated my heart since then.

And in the lonely hours of the night,
when I do lie down to rest,
I see your pensive eyes,
hear your merry laugh...
And wistfully drifting
into mysterious reveries,
I wonder if I love you,
but it seems that I do!

Two performances of Rachmanioff's:

In the silence of the mysterious night

In the silence of the mysterious night,
your alluring babble, smiles and glances,
your fleeting glances, the locks of your rich hair, locks pliant under your fingertips -
I will long be trying to get rid of the images only to call them back again;

I will be repeating and correcting in a whisper
the words I've told you, the words full of awkwardness,
and, drunk with love, contrary to reason,
I will be awakening the night's darkness with a cherished name.


  1. As much as I enjoy the richness of Dmitri Horostovsky's voice, and the smoothness with which he sang the Rachmaninoff, there was an earnestness in Mark Reizen's performance that I missed. It hardly seems a "performance" at all - he so obviously loves the music he's singing, and as he is caught up in the moment, so are we. The beautiful pianissimo he holds in his final note makes the end of the song that much more intimate and personal.

    I only hope that when I'm 79, I am still singing with as much love as he.

  2. The first thing I noticed in the Tchaikovsky was how the seemingly difficult Russian sounds that are so unfamiliar to my American tongue were sung with such ease by a native speaker and how those "back l's" were used so expressively during significant moments in the piece. I really enjoyed listening to the comparative Rachmaninoff pieces and found that I agree with Emily. Horostovsky has one of my favorite baritone voices, but there was something very special in Reizen's delivery of these pieces. It seems that with musical experience, age and maturity he found that the performance is not about pleasing a crowd and expressing passion in volume and fervor - but that there are so many subtle and intimate ways to be passionate. Both of Reizen's performances were touching and I found that he invited the audience into his personal connection to the pieces with a delicate vulnerability. It wasn't about showing anyone else what he could do - it was about portraying what Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff were trying to express and how it impacted him profoundly.

  3. It is so inspiring to watch and listen to Mark Reizen sing at 79. He sings with such honesty that he truly lives in these songs, or should I say, he lives in song. I watched more videos of his in YouTube and there is one with him singing on stage in an opera at 90! There is also a YouTube video of him talking about Mussorgsky - Oh, how I wish it was translated in English.

  4. Reizen’s in depth interpretations of Russian Song go farther than the voice. He is an inspiration to watch and sings with true dedication and compassion in his native tongue. The Russian language is so interesting to listen to and is set beautifully by Tchaiskovsky and Rachmaniov. There are defiant folk elements, but overall I hear the overtly dramatic lyricism and sweeping phrases that are so characteristic of Tchaikovsky’s work. In the second pieces, I hear characteristics of Brahms and Schumann’s in the writing, especially in the beginning. Both Hvorostovsky and Reizen sing this piece with so much heart, I don’t like one more than the other.

  5. Wow...Mark Reizen is one expressive singer. His voice has warmth and freshness. I appreciated both Horostovsky and Reizen's videos. I like the sounds in Russian, even though I don't understand any of it. I like the Tchaikovsky because its subtle hints at modality but writes romantically with beautiful melodies and rich harmony. The Rachmaninoff is very romantic too. It reminds me of Schumann more because of the piano's involvement in the performance. You can't detach the voice from piano.

  6. Hmmm. Somehow I gravitate towards Russian songs sung by Russian WOMEN. I did not particularly enjoy these recordings, which is not to say that I do not enjoy the music. I found the first two singers to sound like Dracula: too dark, too covered, obtrusive vibrato. Perhaps I am being too critical on the singer who is nearing 80, but he does not vary his dynamics and if I didn't have a translation, I would have NO IDEA what this song was about.

    The Rachmaninoff is probably my favorite, due to the overt Romanticism ala Schumann.

    In general, I miss some of the nuance, resonance, and brightness that a female voice could bring to these pieces.

  7. I was swept away by the poetry of the Tchaikovsky piece; The image was so clear in my mind. When I listened to Tchaikovsky's musical treatment of this text the images took on color and light. This piece is so beautiful and Reizen's performance so passionate. What a joy!

  8. I love the visceral, romantic longing in Tchaikovsky's music; the emotion always sounds authentic rather than schmaltzy. The dramatic pacing of this song is also very exciting.

  9. I was struck by how incredibly different the two interpretations were of the same song. While Horostovsky's voice is stunning, rich and powerful,I did not feel him emotionally connecting to the text he was singing in the same way the Reizen did. There was a vulnerability in Reizen's performance that was so incredibly moving and everything about his performance was in service of the text. It was written on his face throughout and it really drew me to the song in a way that Horostovsky' s did not.

  10. I loved experiencing Reizen's performance of In the Silence. I loved how he expressed text and used color and dynamics throughout the piece. I felt that the combination of Khvostin's sensitive playing and the deliberate voicing that sounded almost like two melodic lines interwoven together with the piano and voice. While I enjoyed Hvorostovsky's performance, I missed the same delicacy in 'duetting' that I found to be exquisite in the former.

  11. Upon listening to these recordings, I suddenly became aware of just how starved I have been of Russian art song. I have neither played nor listened to very much Russian music written for voice, and I am now realizing that I have a lot of listening to do. After hearing "Amidst the din of the ball" and "None but the Lonely heart." I am hearing from Tchaikovsky a particular strong penchant for melody, particularly in the instrumental interludes. It is not just a singing line to echo the voice part but a melody that sympathetically continues the story of the vocal melody or seems to carry a weight of its own. In Rachmaninoff's "In the Silent of the Night," I hear drama created by texture. I also agree with Maya that it is amazing how different the two interpretations are, and that is my impression from both the singer as well as the pianist. The two performances sound as if they are of two different pieces. I feel that Hvorostovsky's performance featured an especially notable collaboration with his pianist, making the climax of the song quite compelling and enjoying.

  12. For Tchaikovsky "In the midst of the ball", the sense of triple meter from the piano part is very strong that I can imagine people dancing in the background throughout the song. I find it interesting how the pianist places the weak beats such that the music doesn't sound "square" - I guess he's doing this to show that the character isn't engaged in the ball, but the girl he is attracted to.

    The piano part of "In the silence of the mysterious night" has very typical Rachmaninoff writing. The piano intro expresses the title ("mysterious") very well through a chain of diminished seventh harmonies. I don't know much about this song, just wondering if D major is the original key. As I find D major a rather bright key, I'm thinking if flat keys may work better in portraying "silence"...

  13. I am always so moved by Russian music. Something about it is so honest and emotional that it really resonates with me. I agree with Maya that the vulnerability in Reizen's performances really struck me and stuck with me. His emotional honesty really came through and the music was able to just sweep me away. Horostovsky's performance was beautiful as well, but I think it lacked the nuance and earnestness that Reizen had in his.

    Abby, I love how you describe Tchaikovsky's music as visceral and romantic longing. I think that is spot on and I feel the same way.

  14. Reizen's interpretation of these pieces is astonishing. I feel like he displays this vulnerability that was lost in the Horostovsky. Reizen and Khvostin use the melodic line in the Tchaikovsky beautifully, their melodic lines seem to be made of the same large idea, rather than seeming like two parts of a conversation.

  15. I love Reizen's portrayal of these pieces. There is an honesty that is sometimes hard to get that only comes from having a love of the music you are singing. His love for this music really shows. The voice is astounding for someone who is 79. Wow. On the other hand Horostovsky has more clarity in his voice, but I agree with those who have commented previously, his version is not quite as effective as Reizen's. He did not "love" the language as much as Reizen did. I feel like he could have really dug into the text and that would have given us more of a genuine performance.

  16. Such bold, rich and impassioned music. Often when one thinks of Russia, the terms "Slavic" and "folk" come to mind, and, indeed there are some of these elements in both Tchaikovsky's and Rachmaninoff's compositions. But unlike the "Mighty Handful", their writing was more European-based, but still contains a "Russian" sound. I find it fascinating that these two composers, while sharing so many elements, also have two very distinctive styles. Tchaikovsky, at least in this song, utilizes an almost Brahmsian technique of many short motives strung together to make beautiful long lines with intricate counterpoint and countermelodies. It was easy to hear some of the same elements from his opera "Eugene Onegin". Reizen's performance was heartfelt and contained both passion and innocence and a beautiful declamation of the text. Rachmaninoff, while undoubtedly utilizing "Russian" and folk elements, also sounds very European, but he was also influenced by music from the Russian Orthodox Church and his harmonic language is like no other Russian composer. His music often rises in waves of extremely long melodic lines with much chromaticism which often leaves listeners quite breathless. I have always enjoyed Horostovsky's voice, but found his performance of "In the Silence" somewhat overwhelming for a text that speaks of the "mysterious night" and speaking in whispers. Reizen's rendition, to me, was more sincere.

  17. The Russian language has such a unique color and flavor that its influence into the song writing of these two composers is undeniable. In both of these works, but especially in Tchaikovsky's piece, the melodic lines presented are fairly simple in nature, not doubt consisting of folk song origin; this factor allows the colors and timbre of the language itself to shine through, adding an element to the music that is not heard in other languages. Both Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff bring an elegance to the otherwise folk like pieces that evoke a feeling of high art. I thoroughly enjoyed Reizen's portrayal of the two pieces; he brings a raw authenticity to the pieces and takes advantages of the various colors of the Russian language. While Hvorostovsky is unarguably an incredible singer, but his prowess and operatic stylizing did not, in my opinion, lend it self well to the text, as Reizen accomplished in his rendition.

  18. I absolutely love the expressive way that Mark Reizen uses his consonants. His phrasing is so organic and expressive, and as others have mentioned, hearing the language in the mouth of a native speaker is so enlightening as to how Rachmaninoff and Tchaik were thinking about word painting and espressivity in their text settings.

    I actually love Hvorostovsky's absolutely liquid phrasing in this song. I've heard it done also with a rapturous breathy quality, and I like the simplicity in tone that he uses, I think it brings and honesty to the interpretation. I do wish he would use his hands more naturally!

  19. Wow, Mark Reizen sounds fantastic for 79. How his liquid L influences the color of the vowels is very striking to me. The vowel almost has to be on the darker side in order to sound in line with this consonant. It is clear that the music of the language and then how Tchaikovsky set it was very conscious, as the two sounds in combination are very expressive in depicting the loneliness in this poem.

    The Rachmaninoff is a beautiful song. I love the juxtaposition of major and minor as it relates to the complexity of emotion in the text. Hvorostovsky demonstrates the ideal legato in this song- a wall of sound that uses the consonants as part of the legato rather than an interruption in the legato. Even in the section about whispering he does not ever come off his instrument. Some of these are very long phrases! I am very impressed and inspired by this performance.