Notes and Editorial Reviews
Rarely encountered on stage, even in Russia, Rimsky-Korsakov's tale of the triumph of humanity over evil receives a magnificent reading under Valery Gergiev.
Rimsky-Korsakov's 'autumnal parable' is a strange and fascinating work. Cast in one act (three linked scenes), it tells of the evil sorcerer Kashchey who has imprisoned the Princess, eventually rescued by her lover Prince Ivan; the secret of Kashchey's immortality is discovered to lie held in the frozen tears of his daughter Kashcheyevna, and these flow when her failure to seduce the Prince touches the heart of the Princess, who embraces her. Human warmth can destroy even the fiercest sorcery.
There was clearly an opportunity here for a contrast which
had served Russian composers, including Rimsky-Korsakov himself, ever since Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila, that of the weirdly sinister and chromatic versus the comfortingly human diatonic. By 1902, the pattern might have come to seem a little threadbare, were it not for the fact that Rimsky-Korsakov had been impressed by what some aspects of Wagner's harmony might hold for him. The outcome was his own most advanced harmony, astonishing and terrifying in the portrayal of Kashchey, a powerful role which is here sung with magnificent villainy by Konstantin Pluzhnikov: this is a real tour de force. The human diatonics cannot help but be weaker, though Larissa Diadkova manages very affectingly the Kundry-like transition from seductress to suppliant under the Princess's compassionate embrace: she has considerably the more interesting part, and makes more of it than does Marina Shaguch of hers. Alexander Gergalov, too, is at his best in the seduction duet with Kashcheyevna. Perversely, the opera was a success in the 1905 uprising as a metaphor of humanity overcoming frigid authority, and retained some of that popularity in Communist times. We are not likely to see it in Western repertories; Gergiev's splendid version is well worth hearing.
-- John Warrack, Gramophone [12/1999]
Works on This Recording
Kashchey the Immortal by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Marina Shaguch (Soprano),
Alexandr Gergalov (Baritone),
Larissa Diadkova (Mezzo Soprano),
Alexandr Morozov (Baritone),
Konstantin Pluzhnikov (Tenor)
Kirov Theater Orchestra,
Kirov Theater Chorus
Written: 1901-1902; St. Petersburg, Russ
Date of Recording: 04/1995
Venue: Large Hall, St. Petersburg Philharmonic
Length: 63 Minutes 45 Secs.
Kashchei the Immortal: Dni byez prosveta
Kashchei the Immortal: Ya vizhu dyevu krasoti chudyesnoi
Kashchei the Immortal: Tyomni yeyo ochki
Kashchei the Immortal: Vy, gusli samogudi
Kashchei the Immortal: Nastala noch' zatikhnul vyeterok
Kashchei the Immortal: Glukhaya noch', dorogi dalshe nyet
Kashchei the Immortal: Pit'yo prokhladnaya vernyot vsyo sili
Kashchei the Immortal: Zasnul...tvoi chas nastal
Kashchei the Immortal: Bayu, bai, Kashchyei syedoi!
Kashchei the Immortal: Myeryeshchitsa?
Kashchei the Immortal: Prosti, lyubimi korolyevich moi!
Kashchei the Immortal: Konyets zlomu tsartsvu!
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