MUSSORGSKY Boris Godunov • Herbert von Karajan, cond; Nicolai Ghiaurov (Boris Godunov); Alexei Maslennikov (Grigory/Pretender); Sena Jurinac (Marina); Kim Borg (Pimen); Gerhard Stolze (Shiusky); Anton Diakov (Varlaam); Milen Paunov (Read more class="ARIAL12i">Misail); Zoltán Kelemen (Rangoni); Gertrude Jahn (Feodor); Nadejda Dobrianova (Xenia); Sabin Markov (Shchelkalov); Vienna St Op O • OPERA D’ORO 7084 (3 CDs: 154:42 Text and Translation)
There are several reasons to get the Boris Godunov Decca recorded in 1970, but Karajan’s conducting isn’t one of them. He luxuriates in the coruscating beauty of sound of the Rimsky-Korsakov edition, and in the process loses much of the score’s vitality. Not so in this 1966 performance recorded live at Salzburg. Live conditions often brought out the best in this conductor. So it proves here in the mercurial treatment of Varlaam’s song (though Anton Diakov lacks the breath support to sustain Karajan’s tempo), and in the far from deadening Pimen/Grigory scene of act I.
Of course, you need a really resplendent recording to bring out the loving detail Karajan finds here, and that has never been the case with this particular tape. It’s good, clean, and well balanced, with no breakup at climaxes; it probably originated as a house dub. But the top end of the treble is attenuated, and the moderately boxy ambience doesn’t help. Matters improve in act II, but this could never be mistaken for full frequency range sound.
However, there’s another reason to buy this version of the opera, and it’s the Boris. Nicolai Ghiaurov was at the top of his form when this was recorded. A few critics described his Decca performance as sung rather than acted with the voice—which is completely inaccurate, but it is fair to say that before an attentive and sympathetic Salzburg audience his Boris is that more richly defined. He is especially attentive to phrasing and dynamics as a means to deliver a theatrical experience as set out by the score. The result is a more rounded portrayal of Boris, one that brings out the role’s gentler side without neglecting its guilt, anger, or pride.
Two other performances here equal that of Ghiaurov. Sena Jurinac’s voice had darkened by the time she sang this Marina, but if it no longer has a silvery gleam, its absolute firmness, ease of production, and her interpretative brilliance more than make up for the loss. Zoltán Kelemen is in every way her equal, which is saying quite a lot. His is an exceptionally well-considered Rangoni, the perfect orator used to playing on his subjects’ emotions—all humbleness, honeyed flattery, or denunciation as required, wrapped up in a satiny baritone.
For the rest, Gerhard Stolze sounds slightly raw but delivers a distinguished Shiusky with rather more resonance than one usually hears in the part. Kim Borg’s Pimen is beautifully and intelligently sung, while Alexei Maslennikov pushes too hard, sounding less than his impressive best. Diakov is simply overparted, while Milen Paunov’s Misail is hard-voiced and unpleasant. Gertrude Jahn makes a too mature-sounding Feodor, while Nadejda Dobrianova is a matronly and effective Nurse. Sabin Markov is competent, but little more than that as Shchelkalov.
If you can get past the loss of the upper treble, I think you’ll find this Boris is definitely worth the purchase. Ghiaurov, Jurinac, Kelemen, and Karajan are exemplary, and Borg is only slightly less than that.
Boris Godunovby Modest Mussorgsky Performer:
Gertrude Jahn (Mezzo Soprano),
Nicolai Ghiaurov (Bass),
Najejda Dobrianova (Soprano),
Gerhard Stolze (Tenor),
Kim Borg (Bass),
Sena Jurinac (Soprano),
Alexei Maslennikov (Tenor),
Zoltan Kélémén (Bass),
Anton Diakov (Bass),
Milen Paunov (Tenor)
Herbert von Karajan
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,
Salzburg Festival Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic Written: Russia Date of Recording: 1966 Venue: Live Salzburg, Austria
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Okay mostlyFebruary 1, 2014By Carol L. (Concord, CA)See All My Reviews"This is a somewhat spotty performance. but the great Ghiaurov is the best renderer of Boris that I have heard. Loved his performance."Report Abuse
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