was a frustratingly talented composer - frustrating because
his completed works are so few in number. His great Russian
opera, Prince Igor, was left unfinished at his death,
and was completed by his friend Rimsky-Korsakov. There was also
assistance from the young Glazunov who it is said transcribed
the overture from memory, having heard Borodin play it as the
piano. How much of the opera is actually Borodin is hard to
say, but for the most part it sounds like him and it all sounds
fabulous, which is good enough for me.
is a shame that Borodin did not manage to write more music,
but it is understandable that his successful career as a chemist
and his championship of women's rights distracted him from composing.
What is a greater shame is that, as little as he wrote, even
less of his music is known to most music lovers. Most will have
heard the second string quartet, perhaps even the second symphony.
But everyone knows the overture and Polovtsian Dances from Prince
Igor. The sheer colour and vibrancy of these works has seen
them recorded and re-recorded by just about every orchestra
and conductor around, and everyone will have their favourite
renditions. For me, the yardstick overture and Polovtsian Dances
remain Solti's viscerally exciting readings with the London
Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, now available on Decca Legends
(460977-2) (see review).
But no matter which versions you have in your collection, you
owe it to yourself to grab this Naxos
disc with both hands.
Because for the price of a sandwich and a coffee you get excellent
performances of the ubiquitous overture and Polovtsian Dances,
which are urgent and passionate without sounding rushed. You
also get a chance to acquaint yourself with more music from
this wonderful opera.
and his Ukrainian band are in typically strong form throughout.
The woodwinds and brass have real character and what the strings
may lack in tonal sheen they more than make up for in sheer
commitment. Their performances here are idiomatic, splashing
colour around in the big orchestral numbers and pulling back
when necessary to support the singers in a selection of vocal
orchestra honks and twitters with humour under Galitzky's aria.
Taras Shtonda turns Galitzky into something of a pantomime villain
rather than a truly evil one, but his performance is hard to
dislike. His rapid vibrato may not be to all tastes, however.
Angelina Shvachka's performance of Daylight is Fading
is ravishing and is perfectly underscored by the languid orchestral
accompaniment. Dmytro Popov's Vladimir is also excellent. He uses his bright tenor sensitively to colour
the melancholy longing for Konchakovna in his cavatina from
Act II. Mykola Koval's rich baritone brings real gravitas to
the title role – he sings his aria There is neither sleep
nor rest with feeling, despite a couple of moments of questionable
intonation. The vocal contribution of the Kiev Chamber Choir
is also excellent, although I personally prefer the heft of
a full chorus.
dreamy, evocative performance of Borodin's tone poem, In
the Steppes of Central Asia, is thrown in as a filler.
such excellent performances in clear, well-balanced sound, full
texts of the vocal numbers and a handy plot synopsis, this disc
is a bargain. Get to know Borodin a bit better.
see also Review
by Göran Forsling