The most familiar song in Galina Vishnevshaya's recital in the Kennedy Center last night was Rachmaninov's "O Do Not Sing, Beautiful Maiden." But never before have we heard it from a singer whose Russian citizenship had been taken from her. No wonder the words came with special meaning and impact as she sang, "O do not sing, beautiful maiden, the sad songs of Georgia. They remind me of another life and of a distant shore."
It was a moment of particular poignancy in an evening filled with extraordinary beauties. No one else in our concert halls today brings the rich heritage of Russian songs by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov that made Vishnevshaya's one of the outstanding concerts of any season.
Her voice was in marvelous form, bright as day in Glinka's "Lark," then turning to dark, rich hues for Tchaikovshy's "If I'd Only Known." And what a song that is! Vishnevshaya made everything of the miniature drama that lies in its brief span, placing her voice, as every great song recitalist does, totally at the service of the words. And how often, in the course of her singing, did she make clear what a beautiful language for song Russian is when used so eloquently.
With her voice in complete command, the beautiful singer opened unbroken lines of communication with her listeners through a wide array of shadings, from an easy, full tone to half-whispered phrases of exquisite texture.
She did all theis to bring her audience the unknown pleasures of Rimsky-Korsadov's " 'Tis Not The Wind Blowing," and Tchaikovshy's "Not A Word, Oh Friend Of Mine," and "The Green Forest" by Prokofiev, to single out only three of the finest gems of the recital. The long line she made of Tchaikovshy's "Why?" was a model of gathering intensity.
Yet before she was through, Vishnevshaya had turned playful in the same composer's Serenade, and in "Duniushka," by Prokofiev, and in Rachmaninov's "Power and Paint," a bewitching, seductive flirt. New colors continued to appear in her voice all throught the evening, with Prokofiev's "Green Forest" bringing out the blackest sounds of all. And with the singing, there came some magical arms and hands that broke through any last resistance that might still have been left in the big hall.
And who was playing such beautiful piano for Vishnevskaya all the time? It was, of course, her husband, Mstislav Rostropovich, who, from time to time, doubles on the cello and with the baton. Making superb use of the great Boesendorfer at his disposal, Rostropovich, playing with no music in front of him, offered matchless style, tone, and empathy. When it was over, the piano was smothered in red roses.