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Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina [Box set]

Claudio Abbado Audio CD
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Product details

  • Audio CD (14 Nov 1990)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Universal Classics
  • ASIN: B00000E4HS
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,555 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         


Disc 1:

Samples
Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina - Overture (Prelude)Wiener Staatsopernorchester 5:36£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 1 - Podojdu, podojdu... pod Ivangorod (Kuzka, 2nd Strelyets, 1st Strelyets, Scribe)Goran Simic 2:59£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 1 - Ej!... Ey ty, strocilo! (Shaklovity, Scribe, Muscovites)Anatolij Kotscherga 3:47£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 1 - "Aj! Prjamaja pogibel',..." - "A my zivem nyne v pochoronkach" - "Da cto ty strascaes'?"Anatolij Kotscherga 4:30£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 1 - "Cto b eto na Moskve takoe prikljucilos'?" - "Zil da byl pod'jacij sem'desjat godov" - "Stojte, stojte, okajannye!" - "Och ty, rodnaja matuska Rus'" - "Aj da! VeselHelmut Froschauer 8:53£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 1 - "Ljudi pravoslavnye, ljudi rossijskie" - "Deti, deti moi!" - "Slava lebedju, slava belomu"Helmut Froschauer 4:18£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 1 - "Pustite, pustite!" - "Otdajsja mne!.. Ne pytaj menja!"Vladimir Atlantov 2:57£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 1 - Tak, tak, knjaze! (Marfa, Emma, Andrei Khovansky, People, Streltsy)Vladimir Atlantov 3:39£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 1 - "Slava lebedju" - "Cto takoe?.."Vladimir Atlantov 3:09£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 1 - "Marfa, svedi-ko ljuterku domoj" - "Strel'cy!.. Zivo! V Kreml'!" - "Boze vsesil'nyj"Helmut Froschauer 6:09£0.79  Buy MP3 


Disc 2:

Samples
Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 2 - "Svet moj, bratec Vasen'ka" - "Kto tam?"Peter Köves 5:45£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 2 - "Postav'!" - "Vot v cem resen'e sud'by moej"Wiener Staatsopernorchester 6:42£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 2 - "A my bez dokladu, knjaz', vot kak!" - "Ne tebe sudit' moi postupki!"Wiener Staatsopernorchester 8:46£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 2 - Pobedichom, pobedichom, posramichom (Old Believers, Ivan Khovansky, Dosifei, Golitsyn)Helmut Froschauer 2:03£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 2 - Knjaze, knjaze! (Marfa, Golitsyn, Ivan Khovansky, Dosifei, Varsonofiev)Peter Köves 1:06£0.39  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 2 - Knjaz'ja! (Shaklovity, Ivan Khovansky, Dosifei)Anatolij Kotscherga 1:45£0.39  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 3 - "Posramichom, prerekochom"Helmut Froschauer 2:55£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 3 - "Ischodila mladesen'ka" - "Grech! Tjazkij, neiskupimyj grech" - "Esli b ty togda ponjat' mogla" - "Ty... ty iskusila menja"Brigitte Poschner 8:44£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 3 - "Pocto mjatesisja?" - "Beliala i besov ugodnica" - "Strasnaja pytka ljubov' moja"Brigitte Poschner 6:09£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 3 - Spit streleckoe gnezdo (Shaklovity)Anatolij Kotscherga 6:02£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen11. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 3 - "Podnimajsja, molodcy!" - "Vali valom!"Anatolij Kotscherga 2:21£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen12. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 3 - "Ach, okajannye propojcy" - "Oj, da achti z"Helmut Froschauer 1:31£0.39  Buy MP3 
Listen13. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 3 - Och, mne nevmogotu, och, vot (Kuzka, Streltsy Women, Streltsy)Helmut Froschauer 2:32£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen14. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 3 - "Beda, beda... ach, zlejsaja!.." - "... mernyj dal'nij topot" - "Strel'cy! Sprosim batju"Heinz Zednik 6:28£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen15. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 3 - Zdorovo, detki (Ivan Khovansky, Streltsy Women, Streltsy)Helmut Froschauer 4:08£0.79  Buy MP3 


Disc 3:

Samples
Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 4 - "Vozle recki na luzocke" - "Ty zacem?"Helmut Froschauer 5:24£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 4 - Dances of the Persian Slave GirlsWiener Staatsopernorchester 6:32£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 4 - "Ty zacem?" - "Plyvet, plyvet lebeduska"Anatolij Kotscherga 4:08£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 4 - Gljan'-ko! Vezut, vezut kak est'! (Muscovites)Helmut Froschauer 3:50£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 4 - "Sversilosja resenie sud'by" - "Cto z, proznala ty, golubka"Wiener Staatsopernorchester 4:13£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 4 - "A, ty zdes', zlodejka!" - "Vidno, ty ne cujal, knjaze" - "Ja ne verju tebe"Vladimir Atlantov 3:25£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 4 - "Gospodi, boze moj!" - "Preobrazhensky March" - "Strel'cy! Cari i gosudari Ivan i Petr"Vladimir Atlantov 4:47£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 5 - ""Zdes', na etom meste svjate" - "Oblekajtesja v rizy svetlye" - "Vrag celovekov"Helmut Froschauer11:25£1.49  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 5 - "Gde ty, moja voljuska?" - "Ja ne ostavlju tebja" - "Truba predvecnogo!" - "Gospodi slavy"Vladimir Atlantov 7:55£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina / Act 5 - "Gospod' spaset mja" - "I Gospod' moj, spaset mja " - Closing applauseVladimir Atlantov 5:28£0.79  Buy MP3 


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Ralph Moore TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Given the fragmentary nature of Mussorgsky's operatic output, we are lucky to have anything beyond "Boris Godunov", the only work completed and performed (in the second of the two versions, from 1872) in his lifetime. When he died as a result of his alcoholism aged only 41 in 1881, although he had been working on "Khovanshchina" on and off since 1872, but a torso of the music was in existence and it as a result of the recognition of his genius by subsequent Russian and Soviet composers like Rimsky Korsakov, Stravinsky and Shostakovich that we have a performing edition. This one, compiled from live performances at the Vienna Staatsoper in September 1989, uses mostly Shostakovich's orchestration and the version of the final scene constructed from themes and sketches by Stravinsky. It works very well under Abbado's expert direction; he holds the sprawling conception together to provide a very satisfying entertainment. No other opera perhaps is so ambitious in its historical, political, religious and personal scope and it is a miracle that anything so coherent emerges.

This cohesion is due not only to Abbado's grip but also the involvement of a very experienced, mostly Russian-speaking cast. Furthermore the beauty of the music keeps us constantly involved - not just the highly dramatic sung confrontations, and glorious crowd scenes and set pieces, but also the instrumental interludes such as the exquisite opening pages depicting sunrise over Moscow (metaphorically representing the Enlightenment effected by Peter the Great) and the introduction to Act 2 in Golitsyn's study.

Those solo voices are a rather idiosyncratic bunch.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Opera Worth Exploring 4 Nov 2006
By Timothy Kearney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
One of the things I find fascinating about 19th century Russian music is that in many ways, it was a collaborative effort. A small community of composers believed in the importance of music and creating a nationalistic sound and worked toward that effort. Some of the composers included Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov, Borodin, Balkariev, and Mussorgsky. Of course they often discounted and criticized the work of Russia's best known and perhaps most gifted composer, Tchaikovsky, but still they did give us a great variety of music. It also seems that making sure the music was performed was a top priority, and incomplete or unfinished scores were not an obstacle but a challenge. Works that were not completed were completed by others, and if this were not the case the world of opera would be missing not only Borodin's PRINCE IGOR but Mussorgsky's BORIS GODOUNOV and KHOVANSHINA.

To say KHOVANSCHINA was a draft is an understatement. Composing was not always Mussorgsky's top priority. Combine this with an unhappy life and a severe drinking problem and you have a fragmented at best work. Nicolai Rimsky Korsakov was the first to attempt a version of the work that could be staged. Its greatness was immediately recognized. Later Igor Stravinsky tried to recreate some scenes and finally Dmitri Shostakovich reworked passages and is largely responsible for the work as we know it today. It is an epic opera based on events during the time of Peter the Great. The story involves royal intrigue, rebellion, and a love story: all common fare in Russian opera. There are grand choral scenes as well as haunting arias and duets.

I first heard KHOVANSCHINA in a Metropolitan Opera Broadcast and found it interesting, but also saw ways in which it could drag if the conductor or soloists were not in top form. This is the reason I selected the set under the direction of Claudio Abbado. Many classical music reviewers have praised Abbado's familiarity and comfortably with the score and this proves true in this set. The Vienna Staatsoper is in the handful of great opera houses in the world. Since this is a live recording from a famed opera house with a top conductor, I felt that it would at least be reasonably good. In truth, it's magnificent. The orchestra and chorus are phenomenal. The nuances of the score come to life in this recording. The choral scenes are powerful and alone are worth owning the recording. The soloists include Russian greats Vladimir Atlantov, Vladimir Popov, and Marjana Lipovsek. Since KHOVANSCHINA has been performed in Russia more than in the west, soloists who have performed the work regularly are essential. While this is a live recording and prone to all sorts of distracting sounds, the engineers seemed to have done their job. It's clean and with a few exceptions (audience applause, a few coughs and some stage noise) had very little background noise.

The libretto has great notes on the opera as well as its interesting but complicated history and is a bonus for a great set.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mussorgsky's Underappreciated Second Opera 8 Jan 2008
By Christopher McKoy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Khovanshchina - "The Khovansky Affair" is Mussorgsky's second full opera, though like several of his other operatic projects, it was never entirely completed. Nonetheless, it exists in a version that is far more complete than any of his other projected and semi-complete operas. Khovanshchina was never orchestrated by Mussorgsky and its closing scene was left incomplete at his death, its complete score existing only in a version for piano.

This version of Khovanshchina is a live performance under the baton of Claudio Abbado, arguably one of the greatest of Mussorgsky's contemporary interpreters (his Boris Godunov is also very good). Occasionally the sound quality does not quite measure up to a studio recording, but overall it is very good. The singing is almost uniformly strong, but three voices stand out above the rest: as Old Believer Dosifey, Paata Burchuldaze, a Georgian bass whose deep voice projects an unmatched power that one has to hear to believe, as Shaklovity, Ukrainian bass-baritone Anatoly Kutcherga, who also performs the lead role in Abbado's Boris Godunov, and Slovenian soprano Marjana Lipovsek who plays Marfa.

Khovanshchina is not as unified a work as Boris Godunov and suffers from a sprawling plot and libretto. But the music is for the most part every bit as gripping as that of Boris Godunov and features some of Mussorgsky's most memorable moments, a few of which are known in concert performance versions, including the opening prelude and Golitsyn's journey.

The final immolation scene in Khovanshchina in which the Orthodox "Old Believers" burn themselves rather than adapt to the reforms of Peter the Great (though censorship forbade direct reference to any Romanov monarch) was completed by Shostakovich but also by Stravinsky, which version is used in this recording. It is based on Mussorgsky's sketches and is powerfully effective. There are two standard versions of this final scene: one completed by Shostakovich and one completed by Stravinsky. This performance features the end created by Stravinsky and it is very satisfying and cathartic (see my two listmania lists on cathartic operatic closing scenes, which includes both Khovanshchina and Boris Godunov, whose closing scene is of course a masterpiece of operatic pathos).

To dispel some of the confusion usually associated with Mussorgsky's operatic works and to place Khovanshchina within its appropriate context in Mussorgsky's brilliant but all-too-brief creative life, here is a list of his operatic projects, in rough chronological order:

1.) Salammbo, based on the work by Flaubert. Salammbo was never completed but features some beautiful music and a few of its arias were recycled to become some of Boris Godunov's finest moments. It is generally thought to be the most lyrical and also most conventional of Mussorgsky's operatic projects. To my knowledge, there is only one recording of Salammbo, which was arranged into six `scenes' and performed in Italy in the early 1980s. It is on the Fonit Cetra label and available from Amazon.co.uk

2.) The Marriage (sometimes translated as "The Wedding"), after the work by Nicolai Gogol, the Russian author who recently experienced brief public exposure with the film adaptation of The Namesake. The Marriage is in essence an experiment in the theories of sung speech that Mussorgsky was at this time developing, ideas that are akin to those developed more than half a century later by Leos Janacek. It almost entirely lacks lyricism, and therefore balance, and is accordingly difficult listening. But the payoff would come in Mussorgsky's later projects. Mussorgsky came to believe that opera should be as realistic as possible (but in a way different from that of Italian `verismo' opera) and that therefore there should not be conventional arias, but rather the music should conform to the sounds of sung speech (a practice that would be taken even further by Janacek in his final four operas). The Marriage is therefore Mussorgsky's most unconventional operatic project, and Mussorgsky only composed the first act, although Mikhail Ipolitov-Ivanov finished the work in the twentieth century. There is no recording of The Marriage on CD but an LP recording of Ipolitov-Ivanov's version is still available. Try[...]
3.) Boris Godunov, which drew on the lyricism of Salammbo and the difficult speech-song of The Marriage to create the greatest of Russian operas and one of the masterpieces of Nineteenth Century European music.

4.) Khovananshchina is in certain respects similar to Boris Godunov in its use of a historical narrative, though one from a hundred years after the events of Boris. On the whole the music is perhaps even more lyrical than Boris Godunov, though in other respects even more Russian.

5.) Sorochinsky Fair, which was Mussorgsky's last project, on which he worked during breaks in the composition of Khovanshchina. The opera has been put together in a working version from fragments and is surprisingly effective. It features some memorable music, in particular a very fine aria by the lead female character, which is Mussorgsky at his most lyrical and almost Tchaikovsy-esque. There is a recording of Sorochinsky Fair on CD, but it is hard to track down.

6.) Pugachevshchina (The Pugachev Affair), which remained at the level of an idea for an opera, though Mussorgsky did compile some folk material for it. No sketches survive.

It would therefore seem from this list that Khovanshchina ought to be considered Mussorgsky's fourth opera, but it is only his fourth operatic project. As Salammbo and The Marriage were never completed, Boris Godunov is Mussorgsky's first completed opera and, in the sense of receiving a full orchestration and performance during his lifetime, his only. But because it was left in a far more complete state than any of his other operatic projects (having a nearly full piano score), I think it fair to speak of Khovanshchina as his second opera. Whether one wants to refer to Sorochinsky Fair as his third opera is a matter of opinion.

It is my belief that had he not been a dipsomaniac (an alcoholic's alcoholic) and therefore lived at least another decade or so (dying at 41), Mussorgsky would be regarded as the third major voice of Nineteenth Century opera, along with Wagner and Verdi. His style is certainly as distinctive and unmistakable as theirs and, in my view, the music of both Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina measures up with the best of Wagner and Verdi. Indeed, in Mussorgsky's sadly small oeuvre there is very little music that is not good and almost none that is dull (his art songs, which fill four CDs, are a veritable treasure trove of musical inventiveness and genius - I highly recommend the wonderful yet hard-to-find recordings by the Russian baritone Sergei Leiferkus).

I also recommend the excellent recordings of Khovanshchina by Emil Tchakarov (Sony) and by Valery Gergiev.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart and soul 2 July 2004
By S Duncan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
For those unfamiliar with this work or Mussorgsky in general, in my opinion he is one of the most sincere composers to have ever lived. He did not receive formal musical training and he was an alcoholic but the man had a passion that makes you want to stand next to him on a funeral pyre.
Khovanshchina is based on the so-called `Khovansky Affair'. The plot: there are plans afoot, effected by the frightening Shaklovity (Anatolij Kotscherga) to slander the Khovanskys and their riotous Streltsy (brigands) as well as the fanatical Old Believers who are led by the priest Dosifei (Paata Burchuladze). Shaklovity dictates a letter to this effect, sending it anonymously (using a hilarious and dramatic scribe) to Tsar Peter and the Imperial Council.
As a sub-plot, Andrei Khovansky (Vladimir Atlantov) is enamoured with a captured Lutheran girl, Emma (Joanna Barowska), upon whom he tries to force his affections. He is interrupted and the girl saved by his former intended, Marfa (Marjana Lipovsek), a clairvoyant and Old Believer. His father, Ivan Khovansky (Aage Haugland) enters and tries to sieze Emma for himself. The ensuing argument is broken up by the arrival of Dosifei, who orders the girl's safe conduct.
Nxt scene: Reading a letter from his lover, the Tsaryevna Sofia (whom it was forbidden to Mussorgsky to fully characterise in the opera), Prince Vasily Golitsyn (Vladimir Popov) discards her affections with bitter irony. He summons Marfa to foretell his future, which she does (dramatically) to Mussorgsky's dark, haunting and evocative strains (summoning spirits). She foretells of his fall from power and his exile. He orders her out and sends a servant to dispatch her in the swamp (which she later narrowly escapes). Ivan Khovansky enters accusing the Prince of cutting the 'few' privileges of the brutish nobility (himself foremost). The ensuing cynicism is interrupted again by Dosifei, who chides them both before he too bridles at the Prince -Popov's searing response to Burchuladze's roaring chastisement!- All are interrupted by a breathless Lipovsek (i.e., Marfa), much to the Prince's horror, who enters to announce her salvation at the hands of the Tsar's men. Their presence is explained by the arrival of Shaklovity: the Khovanskys are condemned by the Tsar for their plotting against the state ("Khovanshchina").
In the next scene, Marfa, while reflecting on her love for Andrei, is reproached by the overly-pious Susanna. Again, Dosifei interrupts to restore order as he, in turn, chides Susanna for her judgemental attack. After a mirky and brooding introduction, Shaklovity enters to mull on the pending demise of a sleeping Russia. The rambunctious Streltsy begin the next scene with a rustic chorus almost guaranteed to put a laconic smile at the corner of your mouth (Mussorgsky had such a brilliant affair with choruses and, just as in Boris Godunov, it's evident here). Their wives (chorus) enter to reproach them gruffly for their display and their past carryings-on. The same animated scribe from the first scene bursts in to inform the group of the Tsar's displeasure with the Streltsy and the presence of the Tsar's guards. They forego retaliation in fear of the Tsar's unbridled wrath and fearfully decide to submit, ending the Act in a tense, very `Russian' prayer.
The final Act opens in Ivan Khovansky's home. His servant enters to inform him of his peril but he dismisses him in arrogance. He summons his young Persian slaves to dance for him (the famous 'Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens', here executed with concert-quality brilliance under Abbado's expert baton). Shaklovity interrupts to bring an (false) invitation from Tsaryevna Sofia. While preparing himself (in his supreme belligerence and arrogance)to the 'Swan Song', Ivan is violently stabbed to death (replete with a terrible scream of outrage) by Shaklovity, who mockingly sings one verse from the Swan Song over his body (with 'oily' malevolence!). Then the brooding, menacing interlude.
The closing scenes see Prince Golitsyn being carted off to exile in the St. Basil's Square while Dosifei intones his retribution. The chords here are amazing and Paata Burlchuldze's plumbing, sonorous bass is equal to the task. I throw caution to the wind and say that the music must have been the very epitome of Russia's mood during those dark times. Marfa tells Dosifei that the Old Believers are next on the Tsar's list. Dosifei sees the chance for their martyrdom and instructs Marfa to persuade Andrei to join them for his own salvation. Here, Lipovsek displays her lovely, dramatic voice: she sweeps you away with her mournful reflection on a smooth, full-throated (not loud) golden wave. Then enters the besotted Andrei, who refuses Marfa's pleas, until she becomes more spiritually focused....even sarcastic. They then rush off as the Streltsy are brought into the square to be executed. With their heads virtually on the block, a messenger enters to announce their pardon by the Tsar.
The final scene sees the Old Believers at their quarter, which they enter and set aflame as trumpets sound in the distance to announce the approaching forces of the Tsar. This momentous immolation scene bears Stravinsky's unmistakeable signature. Even so, the opera as a whole is 'Mussorgskian' through and through (even with the revisions by Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich and Stravinsky).
I feel this music unlike any other. No atonality or dissonance. Some characters even have 'lietmotifs'. The music is DEEP and generally dark, though there is humour....and the work in ANYTHING BUT boring. Betrayal, love, lust, ridicule, sarcasm, arrogance, humour...it's all there in superior quality. The singers are generally very good and the chorus is awesome. Abbado's praises defy even my superlatives! My only complaint is the clumsy wobble of Vladimir Atlantov as Andrei. How unbecoming of a tenor, but you can write it off as part of Andrei's generally unlikeable character. He doesn't really feature that much, aside from his whining tantrums anyway. Finally, you wont even know this is a live performance until you hear the applause at the end.
This is the next logical step after Boris Godunov.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force despite some wobbly bass singing 2 May 2011
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Given the fragmentary nature of Mussorgsky's operatic output, we are lucky to have anything beyond "Boris Godunov", the only work completed and performed (in the second of the two versions, from 1872) in his lifetime. When he died as a result of his alcoholism aged only 41 in 1881, although he had been working on "Khovanshchina" on and off since 1872, but a torso of the music was in existence and it as a result of the recognition of his genius by subsequent Russian and Soviet composers like Rimsky Korsakov, Stravinsky and Shostakovich that we have a performing edition. This one, compiled from live performances at the Vienna Staatsoper in September 1989, uses mostly Shostakovich's orchestration and the version of the final scene constructed from themes and sketches by Stravinsky. It works very well under Abbado's expert direction; he holds the sprawling conception together to provide a very satisfying entertainment. No other opera perhaps is so ambitious in its historical, political, religious and personal scope and it is a miracle that anything so coherent emerges.

This cohesion is due not only to Abbado's grip but also the involvement of a very experienced, mostly Russian-speaking cast. Furthermore the beauty of the music keeps us constantly involved - not just the highly dramatic sung confrontations, and glorious crowd scenes and set pieces, but also the instrumental interludes such as the exquisite opening pages depicting sunrise over Moscow (metaphorically representing the Enlightenment effected by Peter the Great) and the introduction to Act 2 in Golitsyn's study.

Those solo voices are a rather idiosyncratic bunch. We have three big, scenery-chewing basses in the leading roles, all of whom make an imposing sound but none of whom is especially steady: both Aage Haugland and Kotscherga have wavery vibratos and resort in the name of dramatic immediacy to rather a lot of parlando yelling and growling, while Burchuladze emits a steadier stream of tone vitiated by so slow a vibrato that the effect is sometimes disconcerting. Still they make a formidable trio of bruisers in an opera, where human nature hardly emerges as attractive. Both Russian tenors are of the strenuous, ear-needling variety but for conventional vocal beauty we have Marjana Lipsovek's Marfa and Brigitte Poschner-Klebel's Susanna, both rich-voiced and expressive, especially in their lovely duet which opens Act 3. Joanna Borowska is also admirable as the put-upon Emma, pursued by both lecherous Khovanskys, father and son.

The sound is really good for a live performance; not much stage noise and an excellent balance between voices and orchestra. The choral singing and orchestral playing are both outstanding: sharp, energised and very authentic sounding. You might prefer Gergiev's Kirov version which is less starry but rather more of an ensemble effort, although I have read complaints of both soloists and chorus being dry-voiced compared with the competition. Others prefer Tchakarov's all-Bulgarian set which also has some starry names in the cast. I have not yet heard it in its entirety but judging from the clips the singing doesn't sound as impressive - and of course it does not use the grand final scene devised by Stravinsky but the less-admired Shostakovich one. I also very much enjoy the all-star live performance in Italian in the super-bargain Opera d'Oro conducted by Leskovich, but if you want a Russian set you will find the crude grandeur of Abbado's account of this violent, turbulent opera very satisfying indeed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent essential version of an unknown classic 21 Aug 2011
By C. One - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This recording of Khovanshchina is an excellent recording of a little-known work by Mussorgsky. The opera was never fully completed by its composer, however, meaning that this version is a bit of a "Frankenopera;" for the most part, it is the version orchestrated by Shostakovich, but it also contains a few parts of more recently discovered orchestrations by Mussorgsky himself (though I imagine the presence of this orchestration is a little spare). In addition, the final scene is written by Stravinsky, a fitting tribute by one of Russia's greatest composers to another, perhaps lesser known composer whose untimely death caused Khovanshichna to never be fully completed.
Opera lovers will inevitably compare this opera to Mussorgsky's other opera, Boris Godunov. In many ways, this opera is more lyrical and has a more traditional feel to it, Mussorgsky perhaps adapting to the Five composers' critiques of Boris. There are many more arias, and less conversation-singing, and even some leitmotif. However, it still retains uniquely Mussorgsky elements in tonality and style. While Boris is interrupted for a Rimsky-Korsakov-suggested act in a lighter tone from the rest of the opera, Khovanshchina has no such break. Therefore, it flows more smoothly as a whole musically, though the story is more complicated than Boris. As a result, Khovanshchina feels more like Mussorgsky throughout, and not a clumsy patchwork of composers and orchestrators.
Now we arrive at this particular recording. Unfortunately, very few recordings of this opera exist, and there are many versions orchestrated by various individuals and so on. I rather think this recording is of the essential version; in addition to being the only one (I believe) that is available with some original Mussorgsky orchestrations, it consists mostly of the Shostakovich orchestration, which most agree is closest to Mussorgsky's intent. The only flaw to this recording is that it is live; as such, it is subject to some background noise, uneven sound, loss of quality in singing subject to the limitations in the house in which it was sung and the equipment used to record it live. However, as a live recording, it is in fairly good condition. The chorus is particularly impressive. In addition, I have not found any other recording that was done in studio, and as such, live is all you are probably going to get for now.
The libretto is massive and extensive, containing Mussorgsky's original text, and also anglicized russian libretto with translations in various languages, including english. A great deal is devoted to describing the plot of the opera, how this version was put together, and a bio or two of Mussorgsky.
All in all, this is an excellent, yet little-known opera, and I highly recommend it.
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