Mussorgsky: Boris Godounov (1869 & 1872 Versions) (5CD boxset, APE)

Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Orchestra: Kirov Theater Orchestra
Conductor: Valery Gergiev
Audio CD
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 5 CD box set
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Philips
Size: 1.48 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Disc: 1
01. Part 1: Orchestral Introduction – “Well, what are you waiting for?”
02. Part 1: “For whom dost thou forsake us?”
03. Part 1: “People of the Orthodox faith”
04. Part 1: “Glory to thee, our Lord”
05. Part 2, scene 2: Orchestral Introduction – “Long live Tsar Boris Feodorovich”
06. Part 2, scene 2: “My soul is sad”
07. Part 2, scene 2: “Glory! Glory! Glory!”
08. Part 2, scene 1: “Just one more final tale”
09. Part 2, scene 1: “Lord, our Heavenly Father – That same dream again”
10. Part 2, scene 1: “You have gone on writing”
11. Part 2, scene 1: “Holy father, for a long time”
12. Part 2, scene 1: “Boris! Boris!”
13. Part 2, scene 2: Orchestral Introduction – “Can I bring you anything, reverent fathers?”
14. Part 2, scene 2: “It all happened in the town of Kazan”
15. Part 2, scene 2: “Why don’t you join in the singing?”
16. Part 2, scene 2: “There he goes – What sort of people are you?”
17. Part 2, scene 2: “I can read”

Disc: 2
01. Part 3: “My dear husband”
02. Part 3: “That’s enough now, my precious tsarevich”
03. Part 3: “I have achieved supreme power”
04. Part 3: “Yesterday evening, Pushkin’s servant…”
05. Part 3: “No! Wait, wait, Shuisky”
06. Part 3: “It is not execution that I fear”
07. Part 4, scene 1: Orchestral Introduction – “What? Is mass over?”
08. Part 4, scene 1: “Trrr, trrr, tin hat – The moon is on its travels”
09. Part 4, scene 1: “What is he weeping about?”
10. Part 4, scene 2: “Boyars of noble rank”
11. Part 4, scene 2: “What? Let us vote, boyars”
12. Part 4, scene 2: “Get away… get away!”
13. Part 4, scene 2: “A humble monk”
14. Part 4, scene 2: “Once in a deep sleep”
15. Part 4, scene 2: “Leave us! All of you, go!”
16. Part 4, scene 2: “O Lord! Look down”

Disc: 3
01. Prologue, scene 1: Orchestral Introduction – “Well, what are you waiting for?”
02. Prologue, scene 1: “For whom dost thou forsake us?”
03. Prologue, scene 1: “People of the Orthodox faith”
04. Prologue, scene 1: “Glory to thee, our Lord”
05. Prologue, scene 2: Orchestral Introduction – “Long live Tsar Boris Feodorovich”
06. Prologue, scene 2: “My soul is sad”
07. Prologue, scene 2: “Glory! Glory! Glory!”
08. Act 1, scene 1: “Just one more final tale”
09. Act 1, scene 1: “Lord, our Heavenly Father – That same dream again”
10. Act 1, scene 1: “You have gone on writing”
11. Act 1, scene 1: “Holy father, for a long time”
12. Act 1, scene 1: “It is the bell for matins”
13. Act 1, scene 2: “I caught a grey drake”
14. Act 1, scene 2: “It all happened in the town of Kazan”
15. Act 1, scene 2: “Why don’t you join in the singing?”
16. Act 1, scene 2: “There he goes – What sort of people are you?”
17. Act 1, scene 2: “I can read”

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Disc: 4
01. Act 2: “Where are you, my dear husband?”
02. Act 2: “Ah! That’s enough now”
03. Act 2: “So the gnat was chopping some firewood”
04. Act 2: “Ah, nurse, nanny”
05. Act 2: “Ah! – What? Has a wild beast…”
06. Act 2: “I have achieved supreme power”
07. Act 2: “How heavily weighs the right hand of the fearful judge”
08. Act 2: “Ah, shoo!”
09. Act 2: “Our little parrot was sitting”
10. Act 2: “My son, my own dear child!”
11. Act 2: “Ah, the most illustrious orator”
12. Act 2: “Take measures immediately”
13. Act 2: “At the cathedral in Uglich”
14. Act 3, scene 1: “On the azure Vistula”
15. Act 3, scene 1: “Enough!”
16. Act 3, scene 1: “Ruzya, I do not need you today – How tediously…”
17. Act 3, scene 1: “Ah! It’s you, my father!”
18. Act 3, scene 1: “Captivate the Pretender with your beauty!”
19. Act 3, scene 1: “Your eyes have started to sparkle with a hellish flame”
20. Act 3, scene 2: “At midnight… in the garden… near the fountain”
21. Act 3, scene 2: “Tsarevich!”
22. Act 3, scene 2: “A humble, sinful pilgrim”
23. Act 3, scene 2: “Tsarevich, conceal yourself!”
24. Act 3, scene 2: “That crafty Jesuit”
25. Act 3, scene 2: “The wife of that toothless debauchee”
26. Act 3, scene 2: “It is she! Marina!”
27. Act 3, scene 2: “But is it not for amourous conversations”
28. Act 3, scene 2: “You alone, Marina I worship”
29. Act 3, scene 2: “Leaders from all corners of Russia”
30. Act 3, scene 2: “O, tsarevich, I beg you, do nor curse me”

Disc: 5
01. Act 4, scene 1: “Boyars of noble rank”
02. Act 4, scene 1: “What? Let us vote, boyars”
03. Act 4, scene 1: “It’s a pity that Prince Shuisky isn’t here”
04. Act 4, scene 1: “Get away… get away!”
05. Act 4, scene 1: “A humble monk”
06. Act 4, scene 1: “Once in a deep sleep”
07. Act 4, scene 1: “Leave us! All of you, go!”
08. Act 4, scene 1: “O Lord! Look down”
09. Act 4, scene 2: “Over here! Sit him down on the stump!”
10. Act 4, scene 2: “Trrr, trrr, tin hat! – The moon is on its travels”
11. Act 4, scene 2: “The sun and the moon have faded”
12. Act 4, scene 2: “Hurrah! Daring boldness has broken free”
13. Act 4, scene 2: “Domine, salvum fac Regem”
14. Act 4, scene 2: “Glory to you, tsarevich!”
15. Act 4, scene 2: “We, Dmitry Ivanovich”
16. Act 4, scene 2: “Flow, flow bitter tears!”

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# Boris Godunov, opera in 7 scenes (1869 version)
Composed by Modest Mussorgsky
with Fyodor Kuznetsov, Konstantin Pluzhnikov, Viktor Lutsuk, Nikolai Okhotnikov, Nikolai Gassiev, Zlata Bulycheva, Vassily Gerello, Olga Trifonova, Evgeny Nikitin, Andrei Karabanov, Evgeny Akimov, Grigory Karasev, Liubov Sokolova, Yuri Laptev, Nikolai Putilin
Conducted by Valery Gergiev

# Boris Godunov, opera (Rimsky-Korsakov edition)
Composed by Modest Mussorgsky
with Yuri Schikalov, Fyodor Kuznetsov, Konstantin Pluzhnikov, Nikolai Okhotnikov, Zlata Bulycheva, Evgeny Akimov, Olga Borodina, Grigory Karasev, Yuri Laptev, Nikolai Gassiev, Vladimir Galusin, Vassily Gerello, Vladimir Vaneev, Olga Trifonova, Evgeny Nikitin, Andrei Karabanov, Liubov Sokolova
Conducted by Valery Gergiev

Outstanding performance(s) by Gergiev and his forces

Every so often, a recording comes along in which the conductor’s conception of an opera sweeps even defective or unsatisfying performances by solo principals before it. Such was the case of the Tullio Serafin “Ballo in Maschera,” the Toscanini “Aida,” Furtwangler’s “Der Freischutz,” Charles Dutoit’s “Les Troyens,” and this recording, which is actually two complete performances for the cost of one. Philips, then, has scored twice with such a gem – both this set and the 1980 Karajan “Falstaff” were recorded for that label.
Gergiev’s “Boris”(es) present an astonishing combination of fire, sweep, drama and musicality in a way I have never heard before. From first note to last in both versions, one is struck by the amount of musical and orchestral detail he is able to bring out, making each scene not only “live” in a dramatic sense, but also pulling the loose threads and uneven scenes together in a way that gives this massive, rambling opera shape and focus. I am simply spellbound by this man’s abilities, though I am sure that he must use Toscanini-like rages and epithets to achieve his “miraculous” results!
The Moscow reviewer below is correct: the earlier version of the Pimen-Dmitri scene does not use the original music or words when Grigory (the false Dmitri) awakes. But what does such a niggling detail matter in the face of such an powerful, musical reading?
As for the various performers: neither Nikolai Putilin nor Vladimir Vaneev will efface memories of Boris Christoff’s rich, tight-focused voice, but strictly as vocal actors they compete with Christoff and then some. Putilin has the higher voice, more of a baritone really, so that his lowest passages present some problems, and he has the archtypical Slavic “wobble” which means that some of his notes sound a bit shaky; yet he has more voice and a better “ring” on the top than Fedoseyev, the pale-voiced Boris of the early-’80s Philips set. His counterpart in the 1982 version, Vladimir Vaneev, has an altogether darker timbre, more like a Russian Gottlob Frick, and is more of a bass, which means that he comes to some grief in the high-lying passages of the Coronation Scene, but otherwise he is splendid, vocally and histrionically.
The Pimen in both sets, Nikolai Ohotnikov, is absolutely splendid: a rich, warm, well-focused low bass, reminiscent at times of the legendary Lev Sibiriakov (now, there’s a name that only die-hard collectors will know!). He, too, sings with tremendous feeling, and is in fact much better than Christoff’s Pimen on either set (the 1952 Dobrowen version or the stereo Cluytens version)…for all his vocal gold, Christoff could not project the warmth or humanity of Pimen because he had none in his character. (Don’t take my word for it, though: talk to anyone who performed with him, or read Nicolai Gedda’s account in his autobiography.)
The 1869 Grigory, Viktor Lutsuk, has a bright, ringing voice and good interpretive skills, but he suffers even worse from Slavic wobble than Putilin. The 1872 Grigory, Vladimir Galusin, is of course one of the great singing-actors of our time, caught here in his early prime with a brighter-sounding top than we are used to.
The Moscow reviewer really seems to hate Olga Borodina’s Marina. She sings gloriously but, as usual, with an all-purpose tone that does not show much characterization. Evgeny Nikitin has far and away the finest voice I have ever heard in the role of Rangoni, the underhanded Jesuit, but both singers were easily topped dramatically by Mariana Lipovsek and Serge Leiferkus on the Abbado recording. In fact, this is the greatest “Polish scene” I have ever heard. But there is one detail near the end that simply astonished me: when Marina, Grigory and Rangoni come together in their trio, their voices blend perfectly. This is something I thought I would never hear in a modern opera performance, and certainly not in “Boris”!
As Varlaam, Fyodor Kuznetsov is superb in both sets: this is the best and most rhythmically accurate “Town of Kazan” aria I’ve ever heard from anyone. As Chaliapin pointed out, Varlaam is not a buffoon, but a wandering pilgrim, a drunk who drinks to soothe his unnamed longings, and the “Town of Kazan” song is not so much a jolly comedy piece as an outburst of this longing for the unnamed, a way of bursting out. Kuznetsov captures this perfectly.
Konstantin Pluzhnikov is a superb Shuisky both vocally and dramatically. Olga Trifonova is a wiry-voiced Xenia but characterizes well. The small roles are all sung well. Evgeny Akimov as the Simpleton will not efface memories of Ivan Kozlovsky, the finest Simpleton on records (in the old Mark Riezen set), or Andrea Velis, who sang the role so well at the Met Opera revival of 1975, but he too is quite good.
The one thing you should remember when judging this recording is that Gergiev, unlike others who have recorded the opera, only used singers from his Kirov Opera company. Galsin and Borodina have become stars, but only after the fact. This is akin to Serafin’s using only the Rome Opera cast for his 1943 “Ballo in Maschera,” another recording that is remarkably excellent despite the stylistic shortcomings of Beniamino Gigli.
I cannot recommend this recording highly enough. If you have no other “Boris,” this is the place to start; and even if you have Christoff, this is the place to go next!

4 Comments

  1. Boris Godunov is a great creation, :oops:

    Mussorgsky penetrated deeply into the world of music, is not it? :twisted:

  2. I agreee with you simpleFritz, the russian music has been different after Mussorgsky, thanks again Whatever

  3. For long, I have so wanted to try this comparison, that feat already humbling. Yes, Mussorgsky penetrated deep here, also into the world of Man.

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