> MUSSORGSKY Boris Godounov – excerpts Guild [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Modest MUSSORGSKY (1835-1881)
Boris Godounov – excerpts
Prologue, Scenes from Acts II, III, Act IV scenes 1 and 2
Feodor Chaliapin – Boris
Astride Barrachi – Tchelkalov, Tcheraiakovsky
Angelo Bada – Shiusky
Dino Borgioli – Dimitri
Salvatore Baccaloni – Varlaam
Margherita Corosio – Theodore
Dennis Noble – Lavretzky
Octave Dua – Innocente
Luigi Manfrini – Pimen
Chorus and Orchestra of The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Vincenzo Bellezza
Recorded 4th July 1928
GUILD GHCD 2206 [72’14]


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The 4 July 1928 Covent Garden excerpts of Chaliapin’s Boris Godounov have appeared in various guises before. Indeed it was the appearance of an LP, RLS742, with the preserved sides and a subsequent review that spurred Richard Caniell to exercise his judgement with regard to the complexities regarding the lack of the Pimen scene in Act IV. The fact that it was lacking meant that an interpolation was necessary to ensure narrative flow, since this was the raison d’être of Guild’s production. Twenty-one sides were recorded by HMV in 1928. The EMI LP released, for the first time, the Pilgrim’s Chorus from the prologue but Boris’s I am oppressed was damaged, as Caniell notes, and a later Chaliapin recording of this, with Albert Coates, was substituted "reshaping the sonics to match that of Covent Garden" to quote Caniell. The main point of contention concerns the Pimen passage, which is missing, as is the orchestral section which leads to Boris’ Farewell. An interpolation, in Italian, by Nicola Moscona has been used instead, elsewhere provisionally identified as a New York Metropolitan performance. Richard Caniell has stated his position on this and other matters in a long letter to this site and I would draw readers’ attention to it.

Irrespective of the complications implicit in this kind of restoration the sound on this Guild disc is truly excellent and the voices emerge with fidelity. Chaliapin’s voice saw surprisingly little deterioration in quality of colour and depth in the years between the first decade of the century and the early thirties; it remained the noble and powerfully expressive instrument it always had been, allied to his remarkable skills of impersonation. The characterization of Boris was complete in its variety and depth. The otherwise near-all Italian cast was a strong one – notably the buffo Baccaloni. Lavretzky incidentally was sung by Dennis Noble. The orchestra is on notably well-behaved form, responding fluidly to the direction of Vincenzo Bellezza. He is a forgotten figure now but was a major conductor and had worked with Chaliapin in 1926 – recording with him as well. His discography is pitifully small but this Boris goes some way to demonstrating why he was held in such esteem – his rehearsals were meticulous even if his English was idiosyncratic. He died in 1964 and this will remain probably his lasting – if incomplete, necessarily imperfect – memorial. Documentation is good, in Guild’s now accustomed livery, and the problems set out with clarity, though the exact provenance of Moscona’s scene is not disclosed.

Jonathan Woolf

See also

Review by Calvin Goodwin , Christopher Fifield , Robert Farr

Letter received from Richard Caniell regarding the Guild Historical series

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