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Published on Jan 15, 2008
Boris Timofeevich Shtokolov (1930-2005) is a name unfamiliar to most music aficionados in the West. Although he was was an extremely popular singer in the former Soviet Union (and my personal favorite bass), his exposure to audiences beyond the Iron Curtain was limited- his tours abroad were not frequent, and recordings are relatively sparse for an artist of his stature. A graduate of the Ural State Conservatory in Ekaterinburg, he was THE leading bass at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg for much of his 30 year tenure there (1959-89) and is still considered the finest interpreter of old Russian romances and folk songs.
His voice was a genuine basso profondo- very dark, rotund, and powerful, but at the same time perfectly controlled, even, and flexible throughout its entire range, with an effortless top. The timbre is smooth as velvet, never harsh, and instantly recognizable (a characteristic of many great singers, it seems), and Shtokolov's trademark diminuendos and floated pianissimos are nothing short of miraculous, unmatched by any other bass in my listening experience. These are used to haunting effect in V.Lipatov's song "A Letter to Mother", a setting of Sergei Esenin's sombre 1924 poem about utter hopelessness and disillusionment with life, from the broken Russian alcoholic's point of view. A translation of the poem, which I highly recommend for non-native listeners, can be found at the following link: