An important recording with a different perspective!
David A. Hollingsworth | Washington, DC USA | 06/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It was Vladimir Stasov (cultural historian & critic) who shared Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky's (1839-1881) desire to write "Khovanshchina" in the mist of the 1872 celebrations of the bicentenary of Peter the Great's birth. And it was no question that Mussorgsky & Stasov felt that composing "Khovanshchina" as a theatrical work came at a logical time, especially since "Khovanshchina" or Khovansky Affairs, was a period in Russian History at the end of the 17th Century leading directly to the rise of Peter the Great. Mussorgsky & Stasov saw that link, and saw it well.Mussorgsky began the project in 1872 with great enthusiam, but left it unfinished at the time of his death by 1881. Almost every passages were left unorchestrated & only the vocal-piano score remained intact. Structurally, the work was originally in six scenes. After Lyadov & Glazunov tried their hands in orchestrating some of the passages of the work (and of Boris Godunov, incidentally), it was Rimsky-Korsakov who gave the first performing edition of the opera. He made omissions in the original vocal-piano score, orchestrating & re-orchestrating the rest of the work, and re-arranged the opera into a five-act format. It was the Rimsky-Korsakov version of 1883 that became the only credible edition after the 1886 premiere at the Maryinsky Theatre.But other versions of the opera began to challenge Rimsky-Korsakov's. For the 1913 Paris performance under Diagilev, Stravinsky & Ravel revised the score and like in Boris Godunov, restored the cuts omitted by Rimsky-Korsakov & replaced the triumphant-like ending of the 5th Act (the Preobrazhensky March) with one which is sombre & peaceful after the Old Believers' self-immolations. After Boris Asaf'yev gave a new edition of Khovanshchina in the 1930s, Dmitri Shostakovich, using Mussorgsky's original vocal-piano score recovered by Pavel Lamm, revised it in 1952 (and re-orchestrated it by 1958 for a film version of the work). Shostakovich (like Stravinsky and Ravel) restored the cuts made originally by Rimsky-Korsakov & changed the Stravinsky/Ravel arrangement of the ending of the Fifth & final act to give it more of a peaceful, yet glorified appeal (a reminiscence of the "Dawn") while replacing Rimsky-Korsakov's reprisals of the Dawn with Peter's March @ the end of Act II. As with Boris Godunov, however, the Rimsky-Korsakov's version of Khovanshina began to fade in popularity by the 1970s as the other versions (primarily Shostakovich's in Khovanschina & Mussorgsky's in Boris Godunov) began to arouse greater curiosity and interests. Emil Tchakarov's 1986 recording of Khovanschina with the Sofia National Opera Orchestra (under Sony Classical) was the earliest to use the Shostakovich 1952 edition of the score. Claudio Abbado (w/the Vienna State Orchestra & Slovak Philharmonic Choir) followed in 1989 with the celebrated Deutsche Grammophon-DG recording. Tchakarov's orchestra performed with sonority, vividness, & conviction (marginally more so than Abbado from the Vienna State Orchestra though not as polished) and never lost sight of the darkness, the passion, yet the nobleness behind the music. Meanwhile, the singing under Tchakarov was consistently well done and highly euphonious overall (especially of the Sofia National Opera Chorus). Nicolai Chiaurov (Prince Khovansky) especially sang with great command. He gave Khovansky the kind of deviance & multi-dimensionalism that's spellbinding and is in everyway measures up to Aage Haugland (under Abbado). Zdravko Gadjev (Prince Andrey Khovansky) also sang especially well while I admire Nicola Ghiuselev's portrayal of Dosifey (leader of the Old Believers). Ghiuselev gave Dosifey a real sense of spiritual strength (and even defiance) in the mists of persecutions. Meanwhile, Alexandrina Miltcheva (as Marfa) & Maria Dimchevska (as Emma) has the richness, strength, and passion in their singing. Therefore, you really cannot go wrong with either Tchakarov's or Abbado's recording. The recording quality for both Sony & DG were well engineered and the sounds particularly atmospheric & fresh. Also, the booklet for DG is far superior to Sony's, with highly detailed and informative essays by Richard Taruskin, Victor Borovsky, & Abbado himself. Therefore, I will say, go for both recordings of Mussorgsky's masterpiece under the Shostakovich's edition. The approach of both Tchakarov and Abbado are very arresting indeed and it's interesting to compare Tchakarov's faithful reading of the Shostakovich edition with Abbado's re-arrangement of the edition, incorporating parts edited by Stravinsky/Ravel (especially the ending of the Khovanshchina). But, if you must choose between them, then go for Abbado's DG recording, but, mind you, Tchakarov's recording provide additional pieces of the puzzle in a rather complexing affair surrounding Mussorgsky's very important historical-based masterpiece."
Carsten Stampe Jorgensen | Copenhagen, Denmark | 06/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Slava, Slava! This is by all means a marvellous achievement. The late Emil Tchakarov conducts as though he allowed the music simply to flow through him. All the subtle details of this complex and astonishingly beautiful score is allowed to be heard, without loosing the sense of unity. When I first purchased this recording several years ago I was unable to break away from it's spell for several months. Not only did I discover a neglected opera, but I also discovered a true miracle in the history of recorded opera. Seldom do we find a cast which is hard to improve on, but I really think it is the case here. Well, I might have preferred Heinz Zednik (Abbado/DG) to Angel Petkov as the public scribe and Vladimir Galusin (Gergiev/Philips) to Zdravko Gadjev as Andrei Khovansky, but these are minor reservations. The cast includes such brilliant artists as Nicolai Ghiaurov, Alexandrina Miltcheva and Nicola Ghiuselev. Stars of truly international stature. As Ivan Khovansky Nicolai Ghiaurov is nothing short of magnificient. He was 57 yrs of age in 1986, when this recording was made, but it's no exaggeration to say that he is as good and impressive as he ever was. The voice seems to have lost nothing of it's vastness and subtle tone colouring. His acting is equally vivid. A truly great performance. Nicola Ghiuselev sings once again Dosifey, as he did in 1976 (Harmonia Mundi). His voice has lost some of it's enormous impact, but instead he has deepened his portrait, and overall he is preferable here. Alexandrina Miltcheva is a really great asset to this recording. Marginally I prefer her to Borodina (Gergiev/Philips), simply because of her vivid characterisation, not quite matched by Borodina.Kaludi Kaludov sings Golitsyn, and is by far the best I have heard in this part. Eastern Europa are not famous for their great tenors, but Kaludov has a really beautiful voice, and his phrasing is very smooth and elegant.Stoyan Popov as Shaklovity is yet another vivid characterisation. Not everybody would think of his voice as beautiful, but it does have a special quality. He sings Shaklovity's aria, to perfection, begging God to bring Russia better leadership. He is lesser known than Anatoly Kotcherga (Abbado/DG) but in my opinion preferable.I could go on about this recording. What an orchestra, what a conductor, what a chorus, what a cast, and last but not least, what a masterpiece. Hesitate no longer - BUY IT, IT'S A MIRACLE!"