A RCAS Valentine’s Day Concert: ‘Sorrow of Love, Joy of Love”

While chocolates, cards and flowers are special expressions of affection during Valentine’s Day, the “Sorrow of Love and the Joy of Love” were best expressed at the Russian Chamber Arts Society’s concert at the French Embassy with the sensuous and enchanting voice of Timur performing love songs of Russia’s “Great Entertainers.”

It was the highlight of the RCAS’ 2019 concert season at the Maison Francaise, where tenor Timur, joined by his fellow artists, guitarist Anna Kusner, and pianist Genadi Zagor, performed before a spellbound audience, the art songs from the repertoire of four famous “chansoniers” of the Soviet Union Era, Sergey Lemeshev, Ivan Kozlovsky, Alexander Vertinsky and Vadim Kozin.

Referring to Timur, Vera Danchenko-Stern, Founder and Artistic Director of the Russian Chamber Art Society, stated in her introductory remarks, “To discover this talent has been the joy of my life.” While pianist Danchenko-Stern is normally featured in the RCAS’ concerts, this was the first time in three years that she had the pleasure to be in the audience listening to the beautiful performance of Russian art songs.

“The joys of love and the sorrows of love are the vicissitudes that we must all be prepared to encounter,” stated Timur, as he introduced the repertoire of the beautiful and poignant songs by Glinka, Varlamov, Blanter, Obuhov and even compositions by the singers Alexander Vertinsky and Vadim Kozin.

The title of the program harkens back to the beloved works by Fritz Kreisler, “Liesbesleid” and “Liebesfreud.” Genadi Zagor’s improvisation on those themes demonstrated his remarkable improvisatory skills in a very effective and virtuosic solo piece.

In the seamless interplay between the brilliant classical guitarist Anna Kusner and pianist Zagor, the audience was treated to a duo performance of what is popularly referred to as a “Russian Tango.” In “Autumn,” Timur and pianist Zagor painted images with music of two tango dancers taking on the dance floor.

One wonders how the tango entered into the musical tradition of Russian music. Although during the Soviet Era the tango was considered counter-revolutionary, it became very popular in Russia, notably through Odessa, after having been imported to Paris and travelling throughout Europe. Due to the interaction and migration of the Eastern European Jewish community, including between Argentina, Europe and Russia, the tango captivated large portions of Russian audiences, much of it underground.

Anna Kusner, a prolific performer and recording artist as well as an authority on Russian folk music, was superlative in her accompaniment of Timur and in her duets with Mr. Zagor. Her ability to communicate the intense emotions of Russian music was unforgettable.

Timur was on the mark when he stated that he channels himself by apprehending the presence of these four great tenors and composers of the past, capturing the spirit of these artists whilst still remaining true to his unique personality. With sensuous tonal beauty, rich tones, musical warmth and elegant phrasing he captured the subtleties of the art songs.

Timur is also an outstanding performer. Naturally charming, he stepped down from the stage and interacted with the audience, clearly finding great enjoyment in doing so. For the first half of the program, Timur was clad in a traditional grey suit, then returning to the stage for the second half in a red suit with a sequined vest to celebrate Valentine”s Day and once more changing his outfit towards the later part of the program into a flamboyant plaid suit.

Timur’s humorous message was clear, “Let’s not take ourselves too seriously in our joys and sorrows of love.”

It is difficult not to talk in superlatives about Timur as a singer and performer as his gifts and originality will transport his work into the musical archives for decades to come.

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