When I was living in Kiev some years ago, we would quite often go to the opera, where all kinds of works in the world repertoire could be seen relatively cheaply in productions good, bad, and occasionally pretty dire. I must have seen one or two of the four featured singers on this superb and likeable recording, as they were all part of the company during my few years in the city. This personal connection, such as it is, makes me cherish this disc of highlights from Borodin`s great unfinished opera (his mind was on his profession of Chemistry, music being more of a secondary activity) all the more.
There`s so much variety on this disc, from the evocative Overture to the famed Polovtsian Dances which close the proceedings. In between, we have an aria apiece from the four principals, each of whom sings his or her heart out.
The first to be heard is the bass Taras Shtonda, whose `I don`t like boredom` is a brief aria beautifully sung, leading into the even briefer Dance of the Polovtsian maidens. Next is a wonderful performance by mezzo Angelina Shvachka of the Cavatina `Daylight is fading`. What a lovely, rich voice she has, with gutsy, sensual low notes.
`Slowly the day was fading` is next, sung magnificently by tenor Dmytro Popov, then we hear baritone Mykola Koval in `There is neither sleep nor rest`, as lovingly sung as anything else on this most welcome disc from Naxos, recorded in 2003 in Kiev, with Naxos regular Theodore Kuchar conducting Ukraine`s National Radio Symphony Orchestra. This must surely be one of their most successful efforts, and a stunning bargain if you need only highlights of Prince Igor, to whet the appetite for more or simply to glory in fifty minutes of stirring music from this dramatic opera (which was completed by fellow members of `The Five` - aka the `Mighty Handful` - Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov).
The final seven minutes are taken up with one of the most unusual and painterly tone poems in 19th century Russian music, In the steppes of Central Asia, which depicts a caravan slowly moving across the steppes...it`s a delightful work that should be even better known.
This is a near-perfect disc from the always enterprising Naxos, and you also get a cover painting of a set design for the opera by the great Russian mystical artist Nicholas Roerich.