Here’s a curious, bold and rather lovely thing: a century-and-a-half survey of Russian art song, featuring five world premiere recordings by Myaskovsky, Shostakovich and Elena Firsova, and sung by a countertenor no less.

Hamish McLaren

Coming relatively late to the party, art song in Russia took off in the drawing-rooms and salons frequented by the likes of Glinka and The Mighty Handful, much of it lyrical, some of it folksong inflected, and most of it setting the well-chosen words of a catalogue of respected poets from Pushkin onwards. Their champion here is Hamish McLaren, a choral scholar at St. John’s College, Cambridge, who fell in love with Russian culture sufficiently to study the language at school. A student at London’s Royal Academy of Music from 2016 to 2019, Ludmilla Andrew taught him Russian song and the college library introduced him to songs by Taneyev, Myaskovsky, and Firsova. A trip to Russia in 2018 found McLaren combing music shops from St Petersburg to Siberia and carrying off many of the songs recorded here, including two previously unrecorded...