Another fantastic recital at the Wigmore Hall, this time it was with Russian tenor Daniil Shtoda, with an all Russian program. Shtoda began studying the violin at the age of 4, joined the Chorus Institute of the Academic Cappella M.I.Glinka at the age of 6, and made his debut in the role of Feodor in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Mariinsky at the age of 13. No wonder he has been described as a "Wunderkind"!
Shtoda has benefited from his association with Larissa Gergieva, who accompanied his recital. Gergieva has worked as a coach at such prestigious places as The Met, La Scala and the ROH, and is the Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers, where she was Shtoda's teacher. She describes Shtoda as a singer with "a strong personality and a most generous amount of charisma." Here is Gergieva's recollection of the moment she first met Shtoda:
"Daniil approached me with a big bouquet of white roses. He was a very young boy with big blue eyes looking for an audition. I asked him what he was going to sing. “Hermann’s aria” – he answered. I thought to myself it was quite a challenge, since Hermann is a very difficult role. I accompanied him at the piano and, after he finished singing Hermann’s aria...I immediately took him to the Academy, which opened a few days later. He has become one of my favourite pupils whom I love to work with."
The concert started with three songs by Rimsky-Korsakov, the most beautiful of which was "The Nymph". Gergieva's execution of Rimsky-Korsakov's watery accompaniment was matched perfectly Shtoda's rendering of the sinuous melody. Particularly touching was Shtoda's pianissimo, high in the head voice, on the final phrase: "but the nymph is in the reeds with her plaits loose." This high pianissimo seems to be Shtoda's calling card. The next composer, represented by four songs, was César Cui. In "The Lilacs", Shtoda caresses and moulds the phrases tenderly yet ardently, giving less while making us want more. More subtle still was the dynamic with which Shtoda infused "The statue at Tsarskaya Selo". The rubato on the phrase "the maiden sits eternally sorrowful" was wonderfully performed, Shtoda's singing filled with aching pity.
Rachmaninov was the next offering, and a powerful one it was too! The fire in the short "It cannot be" coruscated through the audience, with both Shtoda and Gergieva filling the Hall with passion. Even more powerful was the introspective "O fair maiden, do not sing before me", from the same opus (#4) as "In the silence of the secret night", which Dmitry Hvorotovsky performed in his Wigmore Hall recital. It's climax is the phrase "I forget, seeing you, but then you sing", reaching its zenith on a fortissimo A4, which Shtoda navigated with ease. It was, however, that high pianissimo, here on a slow chromatic saunter from A4 to C4 at the close of the song, which really took our breath away.
After the interval, we were treated to a whole series of songs by Tchaikovsky. In the haunting "Again, as before, I am alone", Shtoda's elegant phrasing eerily shaped the opening piano A minor phrases, while his powerful upper register thundered the progression from E4 to G#4, before returning, pianissimo, to the opening phrases. In "The nightingale", Shtoda's almost conversational phrasing was very moving, while the "Serenade" injected a much welcomed piece of humour. "Amid the noise of the ball" sits lower in the voice, and here Shtoda showed that he is as comfortable in the chest register as he is in the head. The pair gave three encores, in the last of which Shtoda held a very long pianissimo. I shall list them here once I have found out what they are called.
Most of the songs from the recital can be found on his album with Gergieva, published on the EMI Classics label.