Album review: much to enjoy in Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s War, Peace, Love and Sorrow

Dmitri Hvorostovsky has brain cancer. War, Peace, Love and Sorrow, recorded last October during a break in his chemotherapy, reaffirms that he sounds as good as ever.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky sings of War, Peace, Love and Sorrow. Delos via AP
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War, Peace, Love and Sorrow

Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Delos

Three stars

The opera world was shocked last year when it was announced that Dmitri Hvorostovsky has brain cancer.

But the beloved Russian baritone carried on, cancelling some shows but performing when he could. War, Peace, Love and Sorrow, recorded last October during a break in his chemotherapy, reaffirms that he sounds as good as ever.

As the title suggests, it's a hotchpotch of scenes and arias, some of which he has recorded before. Still, there is much to enjoy. The magical opening from Prokofiev's War and Peace finds him in terrific form, moving from dejection to hope as he overhears Natasha sing of her joy in life.

This is followed by excerpts from Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa and Iolanta. More intriguing are two arias from Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. Hvorostovsky, 53, made his Metropolitan Opera debut in that work in 1995 as the lovesick Prince Yeletsky, but here he takes on the role of the brash, cynical Count Tomsky, with invigorating results.

Best is the finale of The Demon by Anton Rubinstein. With its long melodic lines, the music is particularly well-suited to Hvorostovsky's talents.