May 01, 2020

Provence Pastoral

Provence Pastoral
View of the Toulon metro area from Cap Sicié. David Edwards

Almost a century ago, the writer Vladimir Nabokov spent two months as a laborer in the fields and fruit groves of southern France. It proved to be a turning point in his life and art.

As 2009 drew to a close, and with it the first decade of a new millennium, a Ukraine-born soprano named Julia Kogan was laying down tracks in a St. Petersburg studio just around the corner from the Menshikov Palace. Her vocals were to star in an album called Troika: Russia’s Westerly Poetry in Three Orchestral Song Cycles.

Kogan was raised in the US and now lives in France. The album’s title alludes not only to the three song cycles, but also to the three languages of the lyrics’ poetry: English, French, and Russian. Tracks 11 and 12 are among six renditions of verses written by Vladimir Nabokov, who had been born 110 years earlier in the same city in which Kogan was recording.

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