Karajan: Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov, 1970 (3 CD, FLAC)
Karajan: Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov, 1970 (3 CD, FLAC)

Performer: Alexei Maslennikov, Anton Diakov, Biserka Cvejic, Wiener Sangerknaben
Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Audio CD
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 3 CD
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 988 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Disc 1:
01. Prologue – Nu, Shtozh Vy?
02. Prologue – Na Kovo Ty Nas Pokidaesh
03. Prologue – Mityukh, A Mityukh, Chevo Oryom?
04. Prologue – Pravoslavnyye
05. Prologue – Slava Tebye
06. Prologue – Da Zdrastvstvuet Tsar Boris Feodorovich!
07. Prologue – Skorbit Dusha!
08. Act 1 – Yeshcho Odno Poslyednye Skazanye (Pimen’s Monologue)
09. Act 1 – Bozhe Krepky, Pravy
10. Act 1 – Nye Syetuy, Brat
11. Act 1 – Poymala Ya
12. Act 1 – Shtozh Ty Prizadumalsa
13. Act 1 – Kak Vo Gorodye Bylo Vo Kazane
14. Act 1 – Kak Yedet Yon
15. Act 1 – Vy Shto Za Lyudi?
16. Act 1 – Chudova Monsatyrya Nedostoyny

Disc 2:
01. Act 2 – Gdye Ty, Zhenikh Moy
02. Act 2 – Kak Komar Drova Rubil
03. Act 2 – Skazochka Pro To I Pro Syo
04. Act 2 – Akhty!…Chevo?
05. Act 2 – Dostig Ya Vyshey Vlasti (Boris’ Monologue)
06. Act 2 – Ay, Kysh!
07. Act 2 – Popinka Nash Sidyel
08. Act 2 – Veliky Gosudar, Chelom Byu
09. Act 2 – Ukh! Tyazhelo! Day Dukh Perevedu (Clock Scene)
10. Act 3 – Na Vislye Lazurnoy
11. Act 3 – Dovol’no! Krasotka Panna Blagodarna
12. Act 3 – Skuchno Marinye
13. Act 3 – Akh, Eto Vy, Moy Otyets
14. Act 3 – Krasoyu Svoyeyu Pleni Samozvantsa!
15. Act 3 – V Polnoch…V Sadu…U Fontana
16. Act 3 – Tsaryevich!…Opyat’ Za Mnoy!
17. Act 3 – Da Po Tebye Odnom I Dyen
18. Act 3 – Smiryenny, Greshny Bogomolyets
19. Act 3 – Vashey Strasi Ya Nye Vyeryu
20. Act 3 – Iezuit Lukavy Krepko Szhal Menya

Also available:  Slatkin: Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition, Night on Bald Mountain, Khovanshschina (FLAC)

Disc 3:
01. Act 3 – O Kak Tomitel’no I Vyalo
02. Act 3 – O Tsaryevich, Umolyayu
03. Act 4 – Shto, Otoshla, Obyednya?
04. Act 4 – Trrr, Trrr, Trrr, Trrr…Zhelyezny Kolpak
05. Act 4 – Kormilyets-Batushka, Poday Khrista Radi
06. Act 4 – Shtozh? Podyom Na Golosa, Boyare
07. Act 4 – Pozapozdal Malyenko
08. Act 4 – Kto Govorit: Ubiytsa?
09. Act 4 – Odnazhdy, V Vecherniy Chas
10. Act 4 – Proshchay, Moy Syn (Death Of Boris)
11. Act 4 – Zvon! Pogrebal’ny Zvon!
12. Act 4 – Vali Syuda! Na Pyen Sadi
13. Act 4 – Solntse, Luna Pomyerknuli
14. Act 4 – Gayda! Rashkodilas, Razgulyalas
15. Act 4 – Domine, Domine Salvum Fac
16. Act 4 – Slava Tebye, Tsarevichu
17. Act 4 – Lyeytes, Lyeytes, Slyozy Gorkiye

Boris Godunov, opera (Rimsky-Korsakov edition)
Composed by Modest Mussorgsky
Performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with Sabin Markov, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Milen Paounov, Olivera Miljakovic, Martti Talvela, Zvonimir Prelcec, Paul Karolidis, Anton Diakov, Ludovic Spiess, Zoltan Kelemen, Nadya Dobriyanova, Biserka Cvejic, Galina Vishnievskaya, Margarita Lilova, Gregor Radev, Alexei Maslennikov, Rudolf Frese, Leo Heppe
Conducted by Herbert von Karajan

Unmissable

I suppose current trends favor one or the other (probably the latter) of Mussorgsky’s own versions of Boris Godunov over Rimsky-Korsakov’s substantial reworking – which was the one that originally established the opera as a repertoire staple (although they are, admittedly, for all practical purposes two very different works). This is expected given the current infatuation with “authenticity”, and for anyone who bothers to listen, despite the originality and rough dramatic impact of Mussorgsky’s original versions, the Rimsky editing is a marked improvement – the dark main thrust of Mussorgsky is mostly retained, but developed by a composer who possessed a genuine craftsmanship, knew how to pace it dramatically and was probably the greatest orchestraor of all times; the result is quite simply one of the best operas in the repertoire.

And the current version is glitteringly luxuriant; it is a version that plays up the atmosphere as well as the splendor and color, but never at the expense of dramatic pacing (the text used isn’t all Rimsky’s, however – the St. Basil Cathedral scene is retained and the Kromy forest scene is placed last). Indeed, it is a marvelous recording in every respect. Ghiaurov must be heard. No collection of opera is complete without his portrayal of Boris; this is a noble and poignant but never overdone characterization, and the quality of the voice is a marvel; wonderfully phrased, always commanding and with a harrowing intensity realized through subtlety rather than sentimentality. And that’s just the beginning; Talvela’s authoritative but restrained Pimen is probably the most impressive on disc and the other male roles are equally admirably done, witth Spiess being appropriately intense, for instance. The female roles might be a tad less distinguished – though in the present company that doesn’t mean that they aren’t distinguished – and I’ve noted some criticisms of Vishnevskaya from other sources. None will be forthcoming from me, however – I find her characterization deeply moving, and if her tone isn’t always ethereally beautiful she certainly makes amends with some wonderful, breathtaking poignancy.

I am almost going to claim that it is the chorus and orchestra that steal the show. That won’t be quite accurate, given Ghiaurov and Talvela, but the chorus is astounding throughout, spectacular but full of the intense despair that runs through this dark work when called for. The orchestral playing ranges from burning intensity to cold brilliance (as in the dance scenes), but is consistently opulent and full-bodied and with almost ferocious forward momentum and with smoldering undercurrents unrivalled on disc.

It is true that Karajan plays up Rimsky’s vision of the work – the cold, bleak brutality and despair of Mussorgsky’s original isn’t missing, but complemented by almost fairytale-like atmospheres and dizzying orchestral pyrotechnics, blazing, scorching and magnificently sparkling – pure magic from start to finish. It is true that such an approach jettisons the intensely human, in-your-face existential bleakness of the original, but so what? The Rimsky is nevertheless a masterpiece, and the recording at hand one of the glories of the catalogue of recorded music, a wonder of a recording. I’ll leave it to professional music critics to complain that Rimsky and Karajan fail to give us a Russian Wozzeck (for that, you could do worse than seek out the Gergiev set of both earlier versions, or Fedoseyev’s version). The rest of us can safely take this recording for what it is and thereby realize how misguided such criticisms really are. An essential acquisition.

2 Comments

  1. Whatever, thank you again. This Boris is, may be, the most splendid, luxurious and sumptuous from the recording history. I don’t know if the русский spirit is the most suitable, but the result is a great great great rcording of a great great great opera. BRAVO!

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