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Boris Godunov
Mussorgsky, Ghiaurov, Talvela
Boris Godunov
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #3

If you are going to have a copy of Rimsky-Korsakov's revision of Mussorgsky's Boris, this is probably the one to have, though there is also a lot to be said for Boris Christoff's tour de force in which he sings the opera's...  more »


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All Artists: Mussorgsky, Ghiaurov, Talvela, Karajan, Vpo
Title: Boris Godunov
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Polygram Int'l
Release Date: 4/8/2003
Album Type: Box set, Import
Genre: Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaCD Credits: 3
UPC: 028941186225

If you are going to have a copy of Rimsky-Korsakov's revision of Mussorgsky's Boris, this is probably the one to have, though there is also a lot to be said for Boris Christoff's tour de force in which he sings the opera's three big bass roles. Nicolai Ghiaurov and Galina Vishnevskaya are younger and vocally fresher than in their later recordings of the same roles, and Herbert von Karajan's conducting has (like so much of his work) a high-gloss polish that would be less appropriate for Mussorgsky's rough-hewn text than it is for Rimsky-Korsakov's smoother work. --Joe McLellan

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CD Reviews

An absolute must have if you have to have more than 1 Boris
gellio | San Francisco, CA | 12/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"First off, I disagree with a previous reviewer's statement, "the Rimsky-Korsakov version of Boris Godunov, which was edited and reorchestrated so much by him that I don't think you should compare recordings of this version with the recordings now in print." You can definitely compare recordings that are orchestrated by R-K and Shostakovich for that matter, with the pure Mussorgsky editions. By and large the music is largely similar. R-K and Shostakovich more or less refined what Mussorgsky had left. Second of all, the two versions in the Gergiev recording on Phillips are both Mussorgsky's version. Neither has been re-orchestrated by R-K, Shostakovich, or anyone for that matter. Therefore, what we really have are three great versions of Boris.That being said, this is the recording at hand and a fantastic one it is. This recording was my introduction to Russian opera and I still hold BG as the greatest of all Russian operas, whether re-orchestrated or not. The cast and conducting are wonderful, however, it is the Vienna Philharmonic that is the star of this set. What magnificant and wonderful playing. I could not live without this recording for the orchestra alone, but everything else is great too.If you are looking for your first Boris, I would hands down recommend Gergiev's recording on Phillips. Not only is it two of Mussorgsky's orginal versions, but the Coronation Scene under the baton of Gergiev blows the Coronation Scene on this set away. Under Gergiev you feel like you are on Red Square witnessing the Coronation of a Russian Tsar!In closing, I could not live with this or Gergiev's version....if you have to choose one - good luck!"
Excellent choice
Rosomax | Boulder, CO United States | 12/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Decca is finally bringing back the old favorite. Herbert von Karajan uses the more popular Rimsky-Korsakov version of Mussorgsky's unfinished masterpiece whereas Rostropovich uses Shostakovich's version, which, perhaps, is closer to Mussorgsky's vision and Gergiev gave us original score and the subsequent revision for contrast. Rimsky-Korsakov is known for his brilliant orchestral showpieces so there is no wonder that he left his mark on the score in such way that it became less "rough" and way more refined and even "glossy" so to speak. Von Karajan, of course, is the master of refinement so his style suits this version the best. In addition to spectacular Nicolai Ghiaurov - THE Boris of our time, it features the great Galina Vishnevskaya as Marina. That combination was and still is unmatched on record, no matter what version you choose to listen to. I admit, I am a huge fan of Nicolai Ghiaurov and I am completely "under a spell" of his incredible talent. Captured here in his prime he shows what can be made of relatively smallish role of Russian Tsar. Being a Russian myself, I've heard great accounts from Chaliapin, Reizen, Kipnis, Petrov, and Kotcherga. And, of course, I've listened to very involved rendition of Boris Christoff. Rostropovich utilized Ruggero Raimondi's lighter but agile bass to its full advantage (and he, like Karajan, has Galina Vishnevskaya as Marina). Yet none of these basso masters handle this demanding part like Ghiaurov. While blessed with thunderous voice, he never comes out vulgar or insincere; he makes it his prime objective to bring out the tender vulnerable side of Boris, the Macbeth-like anti-hero. Many interpreters choose to go over the top, particularly in the famous Clock Scene, they scream and puff with intent to show the terror that consumes Tsar Boris as he sees the ghost of murdered Tsarevich Dmitri. Ghiaurov, instead is a lot more subtle, but real terror and remorse permeate his every phrase. At the same time, he is regal and even sinister when he talks with deceiving Shuisky or addressing the people. Incidentally, this is the only opera where the people as a unit (i.e. chorus) are one of the main characters; the chorus work is complex and very well done here. Galina Vishnevskaya was a leading soprano for 2-plus decades of the Bolshoi theater in Moscow, and since her departure (forced by Brezhnev's regime and constant persecution of her and her husband Mstislav Rostropovich), no one was able to fill her shoes. Karajan's choice to cast a spinto soprano in the role of Marina Mnishek was a very controversial decision, mostly because traditionally it was a mezzo role. It was exacerbated by the fact that Vishnevskaya was not allowed to leave the country at that time. However, the great maestro pulled all the strings and managed to get his way. Needless to say, it was a great success. Vishnevkaya's powerful chest register allowed her to accurately hit the mezzo notes, sounding very regal and seductive to completely overwhelm the False Dmitri, but she is also extremely convincing as a real challenger of Tsar Boris in her dramatic outbursts. The supporting roles are well cast but, naturally, the last great Simpleton was Ivan Kozlovsky. After him, nobody could make the voice of the simpleton important, to make it THE voice of Holy Mother Russia. Same goes for the False Dmitri; Zednik and Spiess (on this set) came close but their voices are not pretty enough for the duet. Why hasn't anyone cast Zurab Sotkilava? Rangoni is good enough, but I would prefer a more sinister sound.
The role of monk Pimen is crucially important, it is he who started the whole revolt, in a way. He has two great narratives and this role, therefore, requires a basso with the authoritative voice and delivery. Once again, Decca scores the win - it has Martti Talvela, a (very solid Boris himself). No other set has Pimen like that. Decca has finally remastered the sound, so it's clean and even, particularly when the full orchestra and chorus are utilized (the Coronation Scene for instance). This is a must-have set, don't hesitate."
A good Rimsky-Korsakov-version of Boris
R. Lane | Tracy, CA USA | 10/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I wonder if I will get thrown in jail for recommending a recording of the Rimsky-Korsakov orchestration of Mussorgsky's masterpiece? Purists might do that, if they could.

I do though highly recommend this recording as a great overall opera experience. The combination of Herbert von Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra helps this recording trump the competition hands down. The most highly rated competitors are the two EMI recordings with Boris Christoff. Both of those recordings feature French orchestral forces that can't hold a candle to the Vienna forces that von Karajan and Decca bring to the bar. Christoff is certainly unbeatable. In both cases, especially the mono recording, he has a decent supporting cast too. But the poor orchestral and choral support drag the opera experience down and don't do the work justice at all. I will never part wiht those recordings because of Christoff though.

Decca brought in a chorus from Sofia, which together with a very able cast of soloists makes for a splendid recording. I am not always very nice in rating recordings that are seemingly totally concocted in the studio, as this appears to be since it features a symphonic orchestra and a choir that isn't even in the same geographical area. But this recording doesn't seem suffer from the studio.

The sound is top notch too.

Highly recomended."