MUSSORGSKY Boris Godunov • Jerzy Semkow, cond; Martti Talvela (Boris); Nicolai Gedda (Grigory/Dimitri); Leonard Mróz (Pimen); Bozena Kinasz (Marina); Andrzej Hiolski (Rangoni/Shchelkalov); Aage Haugland (Varlaam); Kazimierz Pustelak (Read moreMissail); Paulos Raptis (The Simpleton); Bohdan Paprocki (Shuisky); Bozena Brun-Baranska (Nurse); Wiera Baniewicz (Fyodor); Halina Lukomska (Xenia); Polish Natl RSO; Polish RCh (Krakow • EMI 09178 (3 CDs: 223:31)
This Boris Godunov was recorded in 1976, and released the following year. It is best described as the 1872 version, conflated with 1869 material that had later been removed. Thus, the Polish act dates from 1872, but the section of Pimen and Grigory’s scene that had been cut from that version is restored here. The forest scene near Kromny concludes the opera, with the Fool lamenting Russia and her people, but the scene between the Fool and the children has been repositioned earlier, before the Council of Boyers meets.
The production was largely Polish, with the addition of that towering Finn, Martti Talvela, as Boris, and the half-Russian, half-Swedish Nicolai Gedda as Grigory. Aside from Brun-Baranska’s wobbly Nurse, the singing is uniformly impressive, some of it far better than that. Kinasz’s Marina is darkly haughty yet vulnerable, a fine foil to Gedda—whose voice lacks the youthful bloom it displayed at full volume in the 1952 recording under Dobrowen (now on Naxos 8.110242), but with significantly more subtlety and shading. Hiolski I frankly find superb, whether as Shchelkalov or the oily Rangoni. His distinctive baritone is attentive to interpretative detail, and his scene with Marina in act III, one of the finest things in the set.
The Simpleton of Raptis and the Shuisky of Paprocki are also very fine, though the former doesn’t erase my memories of Ivan Kozlovsky (currently unavailable) in the role. Haugland is curiously stolid as Varlaam, and Mróz, though singing Pimen well enough, does nothing much beyond that. As for Martti Talvela, he restores dignity to a part that is too often reduced to a mindless beast, while losing nothing of his anger, terror, or self-loathing in the process.
The weakest element in this recording is Semkow, not because he is especially bad, but because too often he lets the score idle in neutral. There is little sense of intensity or rhythmic propulsiveness in his conducting. The Polish Radio National SO is effective, but the Polish Radio Chorus is better still.
The engineering was good upon initial release, and the remastering does a fine job. Liner notes are basic, and the text reduced to a cut-by-cut synopsis. At the time of this review, Boris Godunov was not among the librettos and translations that EMI Classics was offering on its Web site. I hope that will change.
There is no perfect version of this complex and compelling opera out there, but I’d put the Polish Boris high on the list.
Boris Godunovby Modest Mussorgsky Performer:
Kazmierz Pustelak (Baritone),
Paulos Raptis (Tenor),
Kazimierz Sergiel (Bass),
Bozena Kinasz (Soprano),
Martti Talvela (Bass),
Jan Góralski (Baritone),
Wlodzimierz Zalewski (Baritone),
Bohdan Paprocki (Bass),
Aage Haugland (Bass),
Leonard Mroz (Bass),
Halina Lukomska (Mezzo Soprano),
Stefania Toczyska (Mezzo Soprano),
Bozena Brun-Baranska (Alto),
Andrzej Hiolski (Baritone),
Wiera Baniewicz (Alto),
Nicolai Gedda (Tenor)
Cracow Polish Radio/TV Symphony Orchestra,
Cracow Polish Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic Written: Russia Date of Recording: 08/1976 Venue: Katowice, Poland Length: 223 Minutes 31 Secs. Language: Russian Notes: Composition written: Russia (1868 - 1872).
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A Welcome representation.June 30, 2014By Joseph Erdeljac (West Chester, PA)See All My Reviews"Since there is no definitive version of this opera the present recording is a welcome offering to the canon. This one is a compilation of the two versions that Mussorgsky left us and like the other famous recording with Boris Christoff is not 'complete' in a sense. The performance is excellent and the singing is exemplary from the entire cast. Marti Talvela in the title role brings a different kind of 'grace' to the interpretation of Boris but non the less effective. Although the Rimsky-Korsakov version is more dramatic in the effects of the orchestration, this version in many ways shows the intent of the composer. Mussorgsky's originals are in his style and that is really what one wants to hear in the long run."Report Abuse