” Mussorgsky died before finishing this epic treatment of the 17th-century clash between Russian conservatives (the boyars and the Orthodox ““Old Believers”“) and the progressive, Westernizing reformers led by Peter the Great. Among the composers who have reworked and completed the material, Shostakovich and Stravinsky are the most convincing, and their work is used in Claudio Abbado’s interpretation. His orchestra and singers rank with the world’s best.
The plot is complex and rather disjointed, alternating between intimate, personal conflicts and crises (brilliantly portrayed by a stellar cast of solo singers) and broad, historical themes in which the focus is on the Russian people (represented by enormous, diverse, and highly skilled choral forces). To most Westerners, the historic situations and characters may be unfamiliar, but the libretto brings them vividly to life. Mussorgsky’s score, borrowing idioms from Russian religious music and folksong, creates a convincing atmosphere and generates tremendous tension in one violent confrontation after another, leading up to one of the most spectacular final scenes in opera.
Khovanshchina is not the kind of opera usually associated with the Vienna State Opera, but this production uses Russian and Eastern European singers with Western imaginative freedom and technical expertise—a combination that surpasses the competing versions by Russian companies. It is a model of excellence in video opera production.”
Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov
This set is a cheaper reissue of the 1993 Sony recording. It is a version of the original Mussorgsky composition without any of the later alterations by other composers. Since its earlier release this version has been lauded for the quality of the singing , conducting and recorded sound. The majority of the vocal cast is Russian/Slavic; the chief exceptions are Samuel Ramey (Pimen) and Philip Langridge (Shiusky). The singing is uniformly excellent with Anatoly Kocherga firm voiced and imposing in the role of Boris. Claudio Abbado is one of the world’s best Mussorgsky conductors and coaxes an expertly paced and idiomatic performance from the Berlin Philharmonic. To complete matters, this luxury “product” is warmly, clearly and naturally recorded.
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Fritz Reiner, Mussorgsky’s classical favorite “Pictures at an Exhibition” is a lively, florid masterpiece. Originally composed as a suite of ten movements for piano based on the watercolors and drawings of friend Viktor Hartmann from his travels abroad, “Pictures” has been arranged for and performed by orchestras many times over, the best arrangement being that by Mussorgsky friend and fellow composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Although the included “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky is orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov, I believe this version of “Pictures” is orchestrated by Maurice Ravel. Other Russian favorites are included for a great compilation. While this is but one of many good interpretations of “Pictures” as an orchestral piece, at Amazon’s present price of $7.98, a better bargian can’t be had, unless you buy a few other classical music favorites that are similarly priced at Amazon and receive free shipping in the deal as well.
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Sadko
Sadko is a shimmering fairy tale of an opera, featuring Rimsky-Korsakov’s gift for tone-painting and orchestral coloring at its most splendidly developed, with many lovely tunes to beguile the ear. This live recording suffers at times from thumpings occasioned by the staging, and from a few rough patches in the choral work, but it gains from the Kirov’s legendary ensemble work. The huge and able cast is headed by Vladimir Galusin’s heldentenorish Sadko, a troubadour who becomes the richest man in Novgorod; and by soprano Valentina Tsidipova’s beguiling Volkhova, the Sea-King’s daughter. This is opera as storytelling and escape, and very pleasant storytelling it is.
Rimsky-Korsakov - Sheherazade
Rimsky-Korsakov is universally acknowledged as a great master of the orchestra. He even wrote a textbook on the subject consisting entirely of examples from his own music! He needed some sort of pictorial or literary stimulus to really get his imagination going, however. His “abstract pieces,” like Symphonies No. 1 and 3, are comparative failures specifically because he believed that symphonic thought was incompatible with orchestral brilliance (he wasn’t the only Romantic composer to succumb to that fallacy).
Rimsky-Korsakov: Great Orchestral Works
Rimsky-Korsakov is universally acknowledged as a great master of the orchestra. He even wrote a textbook on the subject consisting entirely of examples from his own music! He needed some sort of pictorial or literary stimulus to really get his imagination going, however. His “abstract pieces,” like Symphonies No. 1 and 3, are comparative failures specifically because he believed that symphonic thought was incompatible with orchestral brilliance (he wasn’t the only Romantic composer to succumb to that fallacy). So all of his best music is either obviously illustrative, or taken from one of his colorful “fairy tale” operas. This two-disc set gives you an excellent selection of works of both types at a great price.
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Snow Maiden
” This is the most marvelously played and recorded Rimsky-Korsakov program that I have encountered. The players revel in the music’s exotic orchestral textures, making this already lively music sparkle with vibrancy. Of course, BIS’ excellent engineers splendidly capture every note.
And, what of the music itself? Well, there is little that needs to be said, except that this is Rimsky-Korsakov at his best. Rimsky-Korsakov has a readily identifiable and highly attractive style. Maybe it is fairy-tale like atmosphere, the vivacious, yet charming, melodies or the stirring nobility of his works that commands the listener’s attention, but in any case, his music is great. While, the majority of the pieces on this program are not considered to be among Rimsky-Korsakov’s best known works, that really does not mean anything except that these pieces are still waiting to get the attention they deserve. The endearing Christmas Eve suite, with its captivating melodic material, certainly should be better known. The Pan Voyevoda suite contains a lovely ““moonlight”” movement, as well as an exciting mazurka and a regal polonaise that will surely have you humming along. The Snow Maiden suite might be the best known piece on this release. Suffice it to say that the suite’s ““Dance of the Tumblers”” brings the program to an exciting close. “
Russian conductors Vol. 9 Nikolai Golovanov. Modest Musorgsky * Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov * Miliy Bala