Music review: Dmitri Hvorostovsky at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

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The last time we saw the formidably charismatic Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, he was fronting a cavalcade of Russian religious music, opera excerpts, folk songs and ‘popera’ in Pasadena in 2007. On Thursday night, only five days after wrapping up the title role in the Met’s production of Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” (which he inherited from one Plácido Domingo), Hvorostovsky turned up at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion under the auspices of Los Angeles Opera in yet another context -– alone with pianist Ivari Ilja in a recital of often seriously esoteric songs.

You can’t say that Hvorostovsky doesn’t like to mix up his pitches. And he takes chances.


To start, Hvorostovsky strayed a bit out of his comfort zone with four songs by Fauré –- including the well-known “Après un rêve.” At this point, his command of the material seemed rote, his French mere syllables.

Then, Hvorostovsky doubled back to Russia with five songs by Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev, a friend and confidant of Tchaikovsky whose limited visibility in the West nowadays is mostly confined to record catalogs. Yet Hvorostovsky –- now in full resonant voice, the patented steady legatos rolling out in a flood –- showed that there is dramatic gold to be found here, particularly in “Menuet,” with its landscape rapidly changing from Mozartean pastiche to turbulence and a morbid conclusion.

Hvorostovsky made intensely passionate, almost operatic work of two Italian-language songs from Liszt’s “Tre Sonneti di Petrarca” (when viewed in profile with his longer-than-usual white locks, Hvorostovsky seemed almost to resemble Liszt). Finally Hvorostovsky returned to his home turf with Tchaikovsky’s Six Romances Opus 73. This was Tchaikovsky’s last completed composition (not the “Pathetique” Symphony, as one logically assumes), and it ends with an extraordinarily desolate piece of material, “Again, as before, alone,” in which Hvorostovsky and Ilja stretched the tempo almost to the breaking point, lingering with exquisite control over every note.

The encores were Rachmaninoff’s ‘V moltshari notchi taihor,’ ‘Passione’ by Valente-Tagliaferri and a Siberian folk song, ‘Farewell, Happiness.’

-– Richard S. Ginell

[For the record, Feb. 15, 12:26 p.m.: The original caption on this review implied that pianist Ivari Ilja was pictured with Hvorostovsky.]