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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Originally planned as the second part of a trilogy consisting of Boris Godunov, with Pugachoyovschina the projected third and final part, Khovanschina occupied the composer during 1872, as Boris was being ‘adjusted’ to suit the theatre authorities ahead of the premier. The plot concerns the great militia revolt of 1682, and the reign of Tsarina Sophia Aleyevna as guardian of her feeble minded brother Ivan and his half brother Peter. Peter later overthrew her and reigned as Tsar Peter I, known as Peter the Great. A divisive figure, Peter is credited with bringing the enlightenment to Russia, though many (such as Mussorgsky’s fellow composer and friend, Balakirev) claim he destroyed Russian individuality by introdu- cing Western thoughts and
culture to Mother Russia.
This subject appealed greatly to Mussorgsky. In music the conflict between western and traditional Russian thought was highlighted by the Mighty Handful on one side, and the Western-facing Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein and Glazunov on the other.
Mussorgky enjoyed working on the opera: ‘I revel in collecting material, my head glows like a cauldron under which a fire is constantly being stoked up’ he wrote in July 1872. He worked on Khovanschina until his death from acute alcoholism in 1881. A concert performance of parts of the work in 1879 proved a disheartening experience. The opera was left incomplete, Rimsky-Korsakov editing and scoring it in 1883, with heavy cuts. Stravinsky and Ravel re-orchestrated it in 1912 for Diaghilev, and between 1939-59 Shostakovich worked on what is now the standard performing edition of the opera.This recording however uses the first edition as prepared by Rimsky.
The quality of the singing is one of the reasons why it is so easy on the ear. The three bass leads, Dimiter Petkov, Todor Kostov and Nicola Ghiuselev, all have the power, clarity and low notes required for their respective parts. Ghiuslev is the most profundo of them, and his passages in the lower register are a real treat. Good too is Alexandrina Milcheva as Marfa. She has a rich, lustrous tone and puts in plenty of vibrato. Comparisons with Ferrier are fitting, and demonstrate both the quality of her voice, and the old-fashioned style of her performance.
– MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Khovanshchina by Modest Mussorgsky
Dimiter Petkov (Bass),
Todor Kostov (Tenor),
Ljubomir Bodourov (Tenor),
Stoyan Popov (Bass),
Alexandrina Milcheva (Mezzo Soprano),
Najejda Dobrianova (Soprano),
Milen Paunov (Tenor),
Maria Dimchevska (Soprano),
Dimiter Dimitrov (Tenor),
Nicolai Ghiuselev (Bass)
Bulgarian National Chorus,
Sofia National Opera Orchestra
Written: 1872-1880; Russia
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Nice Recording, But Lacks A Libretto September 28, 2013
By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews
"This Brilliant Classics release brings to life a little-known Russian opera by Modest Mussorgsky, who is best known for Boris Gudonov and Pictures at an Exhibition. Featuring a Bulgarian cast and the Sofia Nationa Opera Orchestra, Khovanshchina has many of the elements I have found in several other Russian operas- story lines laced with power struggles, terror, autocracy, violence, and a heavy dose of bass singers, who have the overall effect of darkening the work's atmospherics noticeably. On the other hand, Khovanshchina also contains sparkling and strongly lyrical orchestration, substantial choral input, and excellent female roles (albeit in a relatively subordinate position relative to the dominant male roles). I found the artistic quality of this recording to be high- the singing is excellent throughout, the playing of the Sofia National Opera Orchestra is solid, and Brilliant Classics' remastering of this 1970's-era recording is more than adequate. The only real quibble I have is the lack of a libretto, so the listener is forced to rely on the very inadequate synopsis, which does not go into sufficient detail. As a result, the first time listener's appreciation of this opera could possibly be attenuated (unless of course one is fluent in the Russian language, which I am not). Overall, I enjoyed Khovanshchina, and although I cannot judge how well this particular recording stacks up against other available versions, the Brilliant Classics Khovanshchina merits consideration."