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Alexander BORODIN (1834 - 1887)
Prince Igor (1890) [210:33]
Boris Martinovich (bass-baritone) - Igor Svyatoslavich, Prince of Seversk
Stefka Evstatieva (soprano) - Yaroslavna, his wife
Kaludi Kaludov (tenor) - Vladimir Igorevich, Igor’s son
Nicola Ghiuselev (bass) - Vladimir Yaroslavich, Prince Galitsky, Yaroslavna’s brother
Nicolai Ghiaurov (bass) - Konchak, Polovtsian Khan
Alexandrina Milcheva (mezzo) - Konchakovna
Mincho Popov (tenor) - Ovlur, baptized Polovtsian
Stoil Georgiev (tenor) - Skula, buffoon
Angel Petkov (baritone) - Yeroshka, buffoon
Elena Stoyanova (mezzo) - Yaroslavna’s nurse
Sofia National Opera Chorus and Sofia Festival Orchestra/Emil Tchakarov
rec. 14 - 20 July, 1987, Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture, Sofia. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94608 [3 CDs: 73:31 + 73:33 + 63:29]

At Brilliant's prices it would be crazy to complain even if this performance were only adequate, but as it is, it is in fact in many ways very good. That’s especially true in terms of the sound and brilliance of the Sofia forces under Tchakarov's energised direction. Both chorus and orchestra are really impressive, singing and playing with huge verve and enthusiasm. The Polovtsian set pieces are very idiomatic: lilting and invigorating by turns. 

By and large we have here a number of star voices, some of whom are, to put it kindly, in their later flowering but they are still artists of note. Amongst these are veteran Bulgarian basses Ghiuselev and Ghiaurov, both a bit rough, rusty and unsteady of tone but also powerful and characterful as Galitsky and Khan Konchak respectively. Rather more elegant singing is provided by the smoothly authoritative bass-baritone Boris Martinovich, who also collaborated with Tchakarov in an excellent "Life for the Tsar" and as Rangoni in "Boris Godunov". It is possible to carp about some of the throatier comprimario tenor roles here and even lead tenor Kaludi Kaludov is at times a bit breathy and hoarse but he sings in very committed, convincing manner. The power of Stefka Evstatieva's soprano is occasionally compromised by the typical "Slavonic steam-whistle" effect she produces at forte but she is a compelling vocal actress. Alexandrina Milcheva is perfectly acceptable as Konchakovna and she has a serviceable lower register. That said, her voice does not have the velvety, sensual power of such as Obraztsova in what is, in my estimation, an unjustly neglected recording conducted by Mark Ermler. Some of the best singing may be heard in the stirring Third Act Trio for Konchakovna, Igorevich and Prince Igor and also the touching aria for Yaroslavna which follows that, feelingly sung by Evstatieva with some pointed use of smoothly controlled dynamics.
This does not shake my preference for the Ermler recording but I readily concede that this one is both subtler and much more affordable than that red-blooded version. It has no libretto, only an excessively condensed synopsis.
Ralph Moore