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Boris Godunov...

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(@dinah)
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On another thread, Mussorgsky's masterpiece, Boris Godunov, came up, and @capriccio and @Hugh were asking about my favourite recordings.

Now, I don't have an "ultimate" favourite (, and as I mentioned once before, I actually prefer watching opera performances rather than listening to its audio recordings!)

That being said, my recording of choice, so far, would be the Göteborgs Symfoniker one with Kent Nagano (I'm a little partial to the 1869 version!):

https://app.idagio.com/albums/3f50a7f8-b6ad-45cf-93de-cfdb2e85f81e (I believe this particular album does have a libretto in the booklet? I don't remember, I have to take a look again).

 

Also, I enjoyed watching this performance very much (a modern, yet neutral, setting that isn't as jarring as often happens with these "modernist" productions!):

https://www.operaonvideo.com/boris-godunov-paris-2018-jurowski-abdrazakov-nikitin-anger/

 

, as well as the 2010 Met production, with Valery Gergiev in the pit. (Couldn't find a viewable link online, though. I recommend you guys sign up for the free trial of the met-on-demand and watch it there, then cancel your subscription if you so wish!, although a subscription would be a good investment for opera lovers!)

There are many other productions I came across that I really liked, each for a different reason, but these were the ones that left a lasting impression, so much so that I find myself revisiting them repeatedly.

 

I think Boris Godunov is one of those operas that requires one be a little bit prepared before watching/ listening: it is a work as troubled in its history of composition as is the  fate of its doomed protagonist!

This Wikipedia page offers a very useful introduction to Boris Godunov, both the subject matter and the differences between its 1869 and 1872 versions: (it might seem tediously long, but I recommend you give it a quick reading):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Godunov_%28opera%29?wprov=sfla1

 

And, if like me, you're interested in historical drama, this is Pushkin's play of the same name (one of Mussorgsky's source materials):

https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Boris_Godunov

 


   
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(@jchokey)
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Thanks for all the links!  That Göteborgs Symfoniker version is great!  That's definitely going on my wish list.

 I too am partial to the 1869 version.  Yes, it's true that it lacks any female characters.   But musically, it's tighter and more unified, and frankly, I have often skipped much of the material (like the entire third act) that was added for the re-write when listening to my existing recording (which is of the 1872 version)-- even before I knew that there were different versions!

The wikipedia account of this revision/performance history is very useful.


   
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(@jchokey)
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Posted by: @jchokey

Thanks for all the links!  That Göteborgs Symfoniker version is great!  That's definitely going on my wish list.

Or maybe not.  It looks like it may only be available in a streaming option?


   
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 Hugh
(@hugh)
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Somewhat off topic, but this portrait of Mussorgsky by Ilya Repin was for me one of the highlights of the marvellous Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow:


   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @jchokey

Or maybe not.  It looks like it may only be available in a streaming option?

It's available on Presto as well:

https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/8665130--mussorgsky-boris-godunov-1869-version

Hope that's useful!


   
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(@dinah)
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@hugh

That portrait is the one that usually pops up in my mind when I'm thinking about Mussorgsky, even though I know there are many other more "presentable" ones of him! 🤨 I love this one, very vibrant, very artistic!


   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @jchokey

But musically, it's tighter and more unified,

Exactly 👌


   
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(@jchokey)
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Posted by: @dinah
Posted by: @jchokey

Or maybe not.  It looks like it may only be available in a streaming option?

It's available on Presto as well:

https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/8665130--mussorgsky-boris-godunov-1869-version

Hope that's useful!

It is!  CDs (or SACDs, as the case may be) ordered! Thank you!

This post was modified 9 months ago by jchokey

   
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(@jchokey)
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FYI:  The wikipedia page on the opera posted by Dinah above is great in terms of outlining the reception history of the opera, as well as the differences between the 1869 and 1872 versions.  

I thought I'd also mention that Bob Greenberg did a "Music History Monday" podcast on Boris Godunov back on December 10, 2018, that talks a bit about the opera's reception (with an emphasis on how Mussorgsky's composer friends felt about it)..  A transcript and a link to the actual podcast (for listening) can be found here: https://robertgreenbergmusic.com/music-history-monday-the-best-of-intentions-or-with-friends-like-these.    

Also since Dinah posted a link to the Pushkin play, I thought I'd also mention the book Boris Godunov: Transposition of a Russian Themeby Caryl Emerson, which examines how the story of Boris was told, retold, and revised in Nikolai Karamzin's History of the Russian State (1826), Pushkin's play (published in 1831, but not performed until 1866) and Mussorgsky's opera.  It doesn't really get into detailed musical analysis (Emerson's a Russian literature scholar-- not a musicologist), but focuses more on how the story (in terms of plot, characters, themes, etc.) were used and transformed in each work.   I remember thinking it was pretty solid (and also easy to read for an academic study) when I read it 35 years ago....   Just thought I'd mention it in case anyone wanted even more info.  Here's a link to it on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/606671

 

This post was modified 9 months ago 2 times by jchokey

   
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(@dinah)
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@jchokey

Thank you so much for the wonderful links.

I, for one, will find it very useful, surely. (I love history, and am very fascinated with the times of the historical Boris Godunov; I believe that era is known as "the time of troubles" in the annals of Russian history?)

I'm familiar with karamzin's work, though never read it before. Emerson's book is new to me, that one will be on my to-read list now.

Also, thank you for the Greenberg links🙏. I'll be listening right away.


   
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(@jchokey)
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Posted by: @dinah

I, for one, will find it very useful, surely. (I love history, and am very fascinated with the times of the historical Boris Godunov; I believe that era is known as "the time of troubles" in the annals of Russian history?)

Yes, indeed! 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_of_Troubles

I'm familiar with karamzin's work, though never read it before. Emerson's book is new to me, that one will be on my to-read list now.

Also, thank you for the Greenberg links🙏. I'll be listening right away.

You're very welcome!  (FWIW, I haven't read the Karamzin either-- probably because it's 12 volumes!)


   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @jchokey

probably because it's 12 volumes!)

🤨🤔

Now I'm intrigued! But 12 volumes is A LOT of history!! (Maybe I'll look up just the bit about Boris?!)

P. S. I'm searching for an e-book version of Emerson's book. Did you, by any chance, come across one?

 

I've just finished Professor Greenberg’s episode, by the way. Excellent stuff👌, thank you.


   
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(@jchokey)
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Posted by: @dinah

P. S. I'm searching for an e-book version of Emerson's book. Did you, by any chance, come across one?

 

No, although my guess is that there probably isn't one, as it was published in 1986 before the days of e-books, and I suspect that there isn't enough demand for a specialized academic publication like this to have been turned into one.

This post was modified 9 months ago 2 times by jchokey

   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @jchokey

and I suspect that there isn't enough demand for a specialized academic publication like this to have been turned into one.

I think you're right. Might as well order a paperback, then.

Also, all editions of Karamzin seem to be in Russian! Pushkin should suffice for now, I guess (I know it's very dangerous to rely on literature in learning history, but what can a gal do! 🤷‍♀️)


   
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