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Mussorgsky: The Nursery, Songs and Dances of Death / Christoff


Release Date: 04/08/2003 
Label:  Emi Great Recordings Of The Century Catalog #: 67997   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris ChristoffAlexandre Labinsky
Conductor:  Georges Tzipine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This disc surely belongs right where EMI has put it, in their “Great Recordings of the Century” series. In the middle and late 1950s, Christoff recorded all of Mussorgsky’s songs (63 of them), and since its release in 1958, it has stood as a true classic of the recording industry. This generous selection from that collection represents the best of both the composer and the singer, and it belongs in any serious vocal collection.

It is fashionable in some circles to criticize Christoff as a ham, a singer who exaggerates his characterizations to the point of disruptive excess. To be sure, Christoff has given those critics ammunition not only in some of his performances, but in the hubris that led him to record the roles of Boris
Read more Gudonov, Varlaam, and Pimen in his two EMI recordings of Mussorgsky’s great opera. Nonetheless, it must be said clearly and decisively that the singing heard in this collection is quite simply without parallel. He captures everything that Mussorgsky put in these songs—pain, suffering, anger, love, tenderness, desolation, humor (both bitter and warm), and splendor. It is all vividly portrayed, brought to life with imagination in a way that rivets the listener. We would give a lot to hear singing with this level of commitment and personality today.

Christoff’s imitation of children’s voices in the Nursery Songs is brilliant—never crossing the line into gimmickry. Conversely, the singer’s dark, rich tone is almost frighteningly realistic for the Songs and Dances of Death (heard here in the orchestration by Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov). Throughout there is a naturalness, a complete identification with the music, that convinces you as you are listening to each song that it can only be performed in this way. And, of course, there is the sheer magnificence of the voice itself—an asset that one should not take for granted.

EMI includes a beautifully written and insightful note by John Steane, along with full texts (transliterations, not Cyrillic) and translations. The only minor complaint I have concerns the advertising insert stupidly stapled into the middle of the booklet, separating the English text of two songs from its Russian transliteration. After years of inconsistency in their CD transfers, EMI seems to be consistently getting it right in the “Great Recordings of the Century” series, and the warm and natural sound elicited by Ian Jones from the originals is superb. I keep returning to this disc, happily addicted.

-- Henry Fogel, FANFARE [9/2003]
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Works on This Recording

1.
The nursery by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass), Alexandre Labinsky (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868-1872; Russia 
Length: 13 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Language: Russian 
2.
Where art thou, little star? by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass), Alexandre Labinsky (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857/1858; Russia 
Length: 4 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Language: Russian 
3.
Mephistopheles' song of the flea by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass)
Conductor:  Georges Tzipine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1879; Russia 
Length: 3 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Alexander Glazunov; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. 
4.
Sunless by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass), Alexandre Labinsky (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Russia 
Length: 14 Minutes 57 Secs. 
5.
Savichna by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass), Alexandre Labinsky (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Length: 1 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Language: Russian 
Notes: Arranged: Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1882) and Alexander Glazunov 
6.
Lullaby by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass), Alexandre Labinsky (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865; Russia 
Length: 5 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Language: Russian 
Notes: Arranged: Alexandre Labinsky 
7.
King Saul by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass)
Conductor:  Georges Tzipine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863; Russia 
Length: 3 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Alexander Glazunov; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. 
8.
Hopak by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass)
Conductor:  Georges Tzipine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866/1868; Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 34 Secs. 
9.
The wild winds blow by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass)
Conductor:  Georges Tzipine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864; Russia 
Length: 4 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Alexandre Labinsky. 
10.
Songs and dances of death: no 3, Trepak by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass)
Conductor:  Georges Tzipine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Russia 
Length: 5 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Alexander Glazunov; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. 
11.
Songs and dances of death: no 1, Lullaby by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass)
Conductor:  Georges Tzipine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Russia 
Length: 5 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Alexander Glazunov; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. 
12.
Songs and dances of death: no 2, Serenade by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass)
Conductor:  Georges Tzipine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Russia 
Length: 5 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Alexander Glazunov; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. 
13.
Songs and dances of death: no 4, The field-marshal by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Boris Christoff (Bass)
Conductor:  Georges Tzipine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Russia 
Length: 6 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Alexander Glazunov; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. 

Sound Samples

Where art thou, little star (2003 Digital Remaster)
Darling Savishna (2003 Digital Remaster)
The Nursery (2003 Digital Remaster): I: With nurse
The Nursery (2003 Digital Remaster): II: In the corner
The Nursery (2003 Digital Remaster): III: The cockchafer
The Nursery (2003 Digital Remaster): IV: With the doll
The Nursery (2003 Digital Remaster): V: Going to sleep
The Nursery (2003 Digital Remaster): VI: On the hobby-horse
The Nursery (2003 Digital Remaster): VII: The cat 'Sailor'
Lullaby (2003 Digital Remaster)
Sunless (2003 Digital Remaster): I: Within four walls
Sunless (2003 Digital Remaster): II: Thou didst not know me in the crowd
Sunless (2003 Digital Remaster): III: The idle, noisy day is ended
Sunless (2003 Digital Remaster): IV: Boredom
Sunless (2003 Digital Remaster): V: Elegy
Sunless (2003 Digital Remaster): VI: On the river
King Saul (2003 Digital Remaster)
Gopak (2003 Digital Remaster)
The wild winds blow (2003 Digital Remaster)
Songs and Dances of Death (2003 Digital Remaster): I: Trepak
Songs and Dances of Death (2003 Digital Remaster): II: Lullaby
Songs and Dances of Death (2003 Digital Remaster): III: Serenade
Songs and Dances of Death (2003 Digital Remaster): IV: The field-marshal
Song of Mephistopheles (Song of the flea) (2003 Digital Remaster)

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