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 Kogan’s
early recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin
Concerto (issued in the UK on a Saga
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.