May 2, 2006 - Concert at Lyceum, Alexandria, VA

Critics hate to admit it, but most have little long-term impact on music. Vladimir Stasov was an exception: In 1867, he coined the term “The Mighty Handful” to describe Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky and Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The five were determined to develop deeply nationalistic Russian music – in opposition to those using influences from elsewhere, natably Tchaikovsky.

“The Mighty Handful” worked together for only a few years, but Stasov’s term survives, still associated with the composers’ music.

A Russian Chamber Art Society recital at the Lyceum in Alexandria on Sunday night focused on infrequently heard vocal works.

Soprano Galina Sakhnovskaya, baritone Timothy Mix and pianists Mikhail Yanovitsky and Tamara Sanikidze offered brief songs by four of the Mighty Handful and two song cycles by Mussorgsky, the most original composer of the five…

The songs ranged from pleasant to heartfelt, many drawing on texts by major Russian authors: Pushkin, Tolstoy, Lermontov.

Mix was outstanding from start to finish, combining resonance and wide dynamic range with sensitivity to each song’s emotional content.

Sakhovskaya handled Mussorgsky’s cycle “The Nursery” beautifully, expressively capturing both childish and adult voices. Mix was by turns dark, dour and demonic in “Songs of Dances of Death”….

The Washington Post, Mark J. Estren