OP0167. KHOVANTSCHINA (Mussorgsky), recorded 1991, Mariinsky Theatre, w.Gergiev Cond. Kirov Opera Ensemble; Bulat Minjelkiev, Vladimir Galusin, Olga Borodina, etc. 3-Philips 432 147, Slipcase Edition w.Elaborate 345pp Libretto-booklet in Russian, French & English. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy. - 028943214728
“If you discount all the contention over which edition to use, the superior of Bulgarian singing over Russian, and other arcana, this is a fine recording, full of drama and eminently musical from beginning to end. Gergiev's conducting is masterful. He shows a light, lyrical touch throughout, a blessing in an opera where competing religious sects spend a lot of time declaiming and out-shouting one another. All the singers here are up to their parts, exhibiting Gergiev's preference for an ensemble cast rather than a starry one - Olga Borodina is the only singer who has gained an international reputation.
Perhpas experts in Slavic opera can find fault, but those of us coming new to KHOVANSHCHINA can't help but marvel at its melodic genius and emotional intensity, at its fervent spirituality and primal cultural clashes. In sum, a very appealing set.”
-Huntley Dent, FANFARE, 2 Feb., 2007
“The present version has other strengths. Not the least of them is the choral and orchestral contribution of what we surely should now again be able to call the Maryinsky Theatre. The all-important choruses are most beautifully sung, from the agitation of the Streltsy, the liveliness and grace of the Muscovites with their folk songs, the powerful tread of the Old Believers. There is a variety of tone, of weight, of intensity, of manner that reflects an ancient understanding of how all the different groups speak, or rather sing, as part of a collective experience. Gergiev encourages them intelligently, and accompanies throughout with much sensitivity. He is less intense than Abbado, and sometimes by that much the less effective; but his tactful phrasing, his light, well-balanced re- sponse to what the characters are saying at any given moment, and perhaps most of all to the expressive colour in the scoring, is wholly admirable. The beautiful opening on the Moscow River is delicate, grey, understated; the introduction to Marfa's conjuration has a murkiness that prepares for her entry with just the right atmosphere and weight.
She is well sung by Olga Borodina, fervent in the conjuration, strong and steady at her first entry intervening on behalf of the frightened Emma. This alarming scene is well handled. Yelena Prokina skilfully using Mussorgsky's rapid melodic fragments to suggest her terror as she is about to succumb to rape, Andrey Khovansky pursuing her with the exaggeration of the weak man who is over-asserting himself.
Nikolai Ohotnikov with a more human, troubled manner than is usual offers his Act 1 prayer, beautifully done, but though it is an intelligent idea to seem to lead the Old Believers out of gentleness and a calmly assured faith, the music does ask for the inspired determination that finally takes them into the fire.
There is, then, much of interest in this new version, and some thoughtful and effective performances. It also includes a superbly comprehensive booklet.”
- John Warrack, GRAMOPHONE, June, 1992