After the war, when Soviet musicians began to trickle through in our direction, our first contacts were with the fine new generation of instrumentalists. Oistrakh, Alleles, Rishta, and then Rostropovich. Singers were rare visitors.
Most of them never, or hardly ever, came to England at all, and was only by repute and through the gramophone, that we began to discover their characters and merits.
Gradually, the picture cleared, it seemed that at least four remarkable artists, born around the turn of the century, had come to prominence before or during the war.
The oldest was Nadezhda Obukhova, a splendid contralto, later to be immortalized in an admiring discussion in Sloganize novel, the First Circle.
Then came the magnificent base, Mark Raisin, born in 1895 and still living in retirement.
Last, there were two almost contemporary tenors, Sergei Lemashev, who lived from 1902 to 1977, and Ivan Kozlovsky who was born in 1900, and continued his career, to a ripe old age and retired not so very long ago.
The careers of these two tenors ran on similar lines and I imagine that they must have been regarded as rivals, for most of their professional lives.
They began in provincial opera houses, reached the Bolshoi Theatre while still in their 20s, and completed about 30 years of regular service in that famous Moscow house.
Their repertories too were very similar including all the Russian lyrical tenor roles and leading parts in the same category in French and Italian opera.
Little or no Mozart and a Wagner, only Lohengrin and Tannhauser, and I dare say they were not on stage.
Lemeshev had the stronger voice and more masculine style of the tool. Kozlovsky was the more tender and elegiac.
Response to the human voice is a very personal thing and on hearing my very first Kozlovsky record, I realised at once that his sweet tone and caressing style, especially his individual and loving way of uttering words, was just what I most value and most enjoy.
His debut role at the Bolshoi was the Simpleton or Idiot in Movlaski’s, Boris Godunov. And this remained one of his famous parts. He played and sang it in the Russian film of the opera.
You may think him rather slow, as he laments the ancient eternal sorrows of Russia, while snow falls about the lonely, bedraggled figure, but no one else makes an impression of such deep numbed pathos in this music.