Nostalgic music for troubled times

Imagine a salon in turn-of-thecentury Moscow or Saint Petersburg just before the Great War.

This 77-minute album showcases music likely to be enjoyed by the moneyed class or bourgeoisie during those troubled times.

It comprises Russian art songs or "romances" by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, arranged and performed by Gamma Majoris Ensemble, four young Russians - soprano Anastasia Prokofieva, pianist Yulia Chaplina, violinist Ksenia Berezina and cellist Alisa Liubarskaya.

Of the 25 tracks, 12 are sung accompanied by various combinations of instruments, including Tchaikovsky's Serenade, By An Open Window, It Was In Early Spring and On This Moonlit Night.

His well-known None But The Lonely Heart and Amid The Noise Of The Ball surprisingly take the form for cello and piano duo only. For piano solo, Tchaikovsky's Nocturne In F Major, Meditation and Un Poco Di Chopin make lovely interludes.

Rachmaninov accounts for just six numbers, including songs Before My Window, Do Not Sing, My Beauty, They Answered and the violin showpiece Gypsy Dance, from the early opera Aleko, but these merge seamlessly with Tchaikovsky's typically bittersweet and melancholic idiom.

  • CLASSICAL

  • RUSSIAN SERENADE

    Gamma Majoris Ensemble

    Champs Hill Records 138

    5 stars

Performed with much feeling and an unmistakable sense of nostalgia, this collection could have been called From Russia With Love.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2019, with the headline 'Nostalgic music for troubled times'. Print Edition | Subscribe