OP2907. DEMON (Rubinstein), recorded 1974, w.Khaikin Cond. USSR Ensemble; Alexander Polyakov, Nina Lebedeva, Evgeny Vladimirov, Alexey Usmanov, etc. (Russia) 2-Melodiya 10 02102. - 4600317121021
"Anton Rubinstein's opera THE DEMON has always been a favorite of mine. I have five more or less legitimate recordings of it on CD (and one not-so-legitimate one on DVD-R). But in comparing them all, this Melodiya release from 1974 may very well be the all round best. Certainly, the classic 1950 Bolshoi performance under Alexander Melik-Pashaev, featuring Ivan Kozlovsky as Prince Sinodal and Alexey Ivanov as the Demon, may arguably be the best sung overall, but sonically it can't compare to Melodiya's 1974 edition, conducted with real understanding by the veteran Boris Khaikin, and featuring the unjustly unknown bass-baritone Alexander Polyakov as the Demon, Alexey Usmanov as Sinodal, and Nina Levedeva as Tamara. Equally, the remainder of the cast of the Melodiya is simply superb.
I should mention that Myto released a RAI broadcast DEMON from 1971, featuring Nicola Rossi-Lemeni as the Demon, Virginia Zeani as Tamara, and Agostino Lazzari as Sinodal, with Mauricio Arena directing. It is certainly worth getting for Zeani, and even for Rossi Lemeni (who could be a bit woolly on occasion). Still, it can in no way surpass the Khaikin (or the Melik-Pashaev) for full authenticity and capturing the feel of the opera.
For years, although I really loved this work, I felt that in many ways it was a ‘estimable miss’, not really capable of standing next to, say, a PIQUE DAME or BORIS GODUNOV. Well, maybe it can't, but Khaikin and company come mighty close in this issue. I can recommend it without reservations.”
- Boyd Cathey, amazon.com
“Melodiya presents a recording of Anton Rubinstein’s opera THE DEMON. This wonderful work which was inspired with the poem of the same name by Mikhail Lermontov and then inspired the likes of Mikhail Vrubel and Feodor Chaliapin became a milestone in the history of music theatre. Unfortunately, the opera was almost forgotten by the public and musicians, and only few of its fragments were widely known. It’s only lately that Russian and foreign opera houses have been showing a new interest in it.
Rubinstein completed the opera in 1871. One of the greatest pianists of the 19th century nicknamed ‘tsar of the stage’, a composer and conductor, the founder of the first ever Russian conservatory in St. Petersburg, he stood at the summit of glory and in full possession of his composing mastery. THE DEMON combined traditions of Russian and West European music art and did justice to the colour of Caucasus. The opera was a great success with the public and accepted enthusiastically even by the composers of The Five, Rubinstein’s ideological ‘opponents’. ‘A superb artist’, wrote Modest Mussorgsky in a letter to Vladimir Stasov.
Of all recorded versions of THE DEMON, we offer the one realized in 1974 by the soloists, choir and orchestra of the All-Union Radio lead by the outstanding maestro Boris Khaikin. Alexander Polyakov, a young bass-baritone and future soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre performed the main part. Nina Lebedeva, a Bolshoi soloist and remarkable performer of Russian and foreign operatic repertoire sang the part of Tamara. Alexei Usmanov (tenor), a soloist of the All-Union Radio, performed the part of Sinodal.
Boris Emmanuilovich Khaykin was a Russian Jewish conductor who was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1972. Khaykin was born in Minsk, then part of the Russian Empire. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory under Nikolai Malko and Konstantin Saradzhev. He was artistic director of the Little Leningrad Opera Theatre in 1936-43 and the principal conductor at the Kirov Theatre in 1944-53, where he conducted the première of Sergei Prokofiev's BETROTHAL IN A MONASTERY on 3 November 1946. He moved to the Bolshoi Theatre in 1954.”
- Z. D. Akron