MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


DI Music
phone 0161 491 6655
fax 0161 491 6688

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Eugene Onegin

Opera in three acts to a libretto by Pushkin and K Shilovsky after Pushkin
Eugene Onegin - Panteleimon Nortzov
Vladimir Lensky - Sergei Lemeshev
Tatyana - Glafira Joukovskaya
Olga - Bronislava Zlatogorova
Larina - Maria Boutenina
Filipievna - Konkordiya Antarova
Prince Gremin - Alexander Pirogov
Triquet - Ivan Kovalenko
Zaretsky - Anatoly Yakhontov
Captain - Igor Montchavin
Chorus of Bolshoi Theatre
Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra/Vassili Nebolsin
rec. Moscow 1936, mono. ADD
GREAT HALL MVT CD 047-048 [64:57 + 68:39]

The voices on this vintage recording are very forwardly favoured. This is exactly the same microphoning approach as with the twenty years younger recording of Rimsky's Kitezh on MVT CD 063-065; this is also conducted by Nebolsin. The difference between the two sets is in the predictably primitive recording technology from which the present set suffers. The sound is clear but it is prone to a degree of shatter (e.g. in the Letter Scene where Joukovskaya tests the technology beyond its capacity) and is less refined - rougher than in the Rimsky opera. This recording is most assuredly in the historic category (listen for example to the creaky start to Scene 1 Act 2 where the sound seems even older than 1936). In the first track of CD1 there is some digital crackling or distortion at 4.20 in the duet of Tatyana and Olga.

Nebolsin again proves himself a master of the Russian brand of bel canto; more the singer than the cliff-edge dramatist. The Polonaise which opens Act III and the following scene (trs. 8 and 9 CD2) are grand although here Nebolsin, otherwise a temperate bel cantoist, is suddenly possessed by the spirit of Golovanov and drives his orchestra at breakneck speed. This is not a danceable polonaise!

A few words about Nebolsin are in order. Vassili Nebolsin (1898-1958) was born in Kharkov and studied at the college of the Moscow Philharmonic. He began as a conductor in 1918. The Bolshoi appointed him as choir master in 1920 and two years later as conductor. He was a professor at the Moscow Conservatory (1940-45). Nebolsin was active in both opera and in the concert hall. There are both chamber and orchestral compositions. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1950. Apart from the many Russian operas he recorded for Melodiya he also directed the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra in Koganís early recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (issued in the UK on a Saga LP).

Lemeshev's Lensky is rather nasal but he delivers a most supple aria in Scene 2 Act 2 (CD2 tr. 5) and like Nortzov acts with his voice as also does Joukovskaya.

Again as with that other Great Hall set there is no libretto and translation. This is unfortunate. However you may be able to put this right by borrowing a booklet from another set sung in Russian - something you are less likely to be able to do in the case of the Kitezh set. There is however a succinct synopsis and a detailed track-listing. There are 12 tracks on CD1 and 10 on CD2. There are also thumbnail photos of Nortzov, Lemeshev, Joukovskaya (who can be squally) and Pirogov - all in Onegin dress.

This set is inevitably for specialist collectors offering an invaluable and unique insight into 1930s performing and singing styles. Tchaikovsky and Bolshoi specialists will not want to be without this. Broader appeal is bound to be limited.

Rob Barnett

Error processing SSI file

Return to Index

Error processing SSI file