Boris Christoff & Philharmonia Orchestra -Boris Godounow + Price Igor (1952)

FrontCover1.JPGBoris Christoff (Bulgarian: Борис Кирилов Христов, romanized: Boris Kirilov Hristov, IPA: [bɔˈris ˈkirilɔf ˈxristɔf]; 18 May 1914 – 28 June 1993) was a Bulgarian opera singer, widely considered one of the greatest basses of the 20th century.

Born in Plovdiv, Christoff demonstrated early his singing talent and sang as a boy at the choir of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia. His father had been a very popular cantor at Resen, attracting the faithful to the Exarchist church where he was chanting. In the late 1930s he graduated in law and started a career as a magistrate. He continued singing in his spare time in the Gusla Chorus in Sofia, achieving an enormous success as the chorus soloist in 1940. Thanks to a government grant, Christoff left in May 1942 for Italy where he was tutored for two years in the core Italian bass repertoire by the great baritone of an earlier generation, Riccardo Stracciari.

After several guest appearances and recitals in Austria in 1944 and 1945, Christoff returned to Italy in December 1945. He made his operatic debut as Colline in La bohème at Reggio Calabria on 12 March 1946. In following years Christoff appeared in a number of roles at Milan’s La Scala, Venice’s La Fenice, the Rome Opera, Covent Garden in London, the opera theatres in Naples, Barcelona, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, etc.

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In 1950 he was invited to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City but was refused entry into the USA as a result of the McCarran Immigration Act, which banned citizens of Eastern bloc countries from entering the country. The role was instead filled by the young Italian basso, Cesare Siepi. After the restrictions were loosened, Christoff made an operatic debut in the United States in 1956 at the San Francisco Opera. He refused any further invitations to the Metropolitan and never appeared there. After a brief absence from the scene due to brain tumour surgery in 1964, Christoff resumed his career in 1965, though at a much slower pace. In 1967 he was allowed to return to Bulgaria for the first time since 1945, for the funeral of his mother.

In the 1970s Christoff on-stage performances were all but frequent. He brought his career to an end with a final concert at the Accademia di Bulgaria in Rome on 22 June 1986. He died in Rome in 1993 and his body was returned to Bulgaria, where he was given a state funeral and buried in Sofia’s Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

Boris Christoff02Christoff had an excellent voice with a distinctive dark tone. Although it was not as large as some other bass voices, he had no trouble making an impact in big auditoria, like the San Francisco Opera. Owing to his stage presence and dramatic temperament, he was a worthy heir to the grand tradition of Slavonic basses exemplified by Fyodor Stravinsky, Lev Sibiriakov, Vladimir Kastorsky, Feodor Chaliapin, Alexander Kipnis and Mark Reizen, among others. He sang mostly in Verdi and the Russian repertoire, and was also a refined performer of vocal chamber music. Among his most famous roles were those of Tsar Boris (Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov), Philip II (Verdi – Don Carlo), Mephistopheles (Gounod – Faust and Boito – Mefistofele), Ivan Susanin (Glinka – A Life for the Tsar), Zaccaria (Verdi – Nabucco), Tsar Ivan (Rimsky-Korsakov – Ivan the Terrible), Dosifei (Mussorgsky – Khovanshchina), Gomez da Silva (Verdi – Ernani), Fiesco (Verdi – Simon Boccanegra), Attila (Verdi – Attila), Padre Guardiano (Verdi – La forza del destino), Galitzky and Kontchak (Borodin – Prince Igor) and others.

Christoff made studio recordings of eight operas (Don Carlo, Boris Godunov and Faust twice each) and numerous live recordings (radio or stage performances). He was much admired as song singer and he recorded more than 200 Russian songs by Mussorgsky (he was the first to record all his 63 songs), Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, Borodin, Cui, Balakirev as well as traditional songs, mostly with piano accompaniment. He initiated the tradition of making studio recordings of Boris Godunov with the same basso singing three roles (Boris, Varlaam, Pimen).

Boris Christoff03While he was a grand performer on stage, Christoff had difficult off-stage relations with fellow singers and producers, which sometimes grew into public scandals. In 1955 he fell out with Maria Callas during the performances of Medea at the Rome Opera and in 1961 his contract with La Scala was terminated after an open conflict with fellow Bulgarian Nicolai Ghiaurov whom Christoff blamed for collaborating with the Bulgarian communist regime. Herbert von Karajan tried to make him sing the title role in Don Giovanni which would have been inappropriate for his range; this prompted him to sever relations with von Karajan.

He was the brother-in-law of the Italian baritone Tito Gobbi. (by wikipedia)

And here´s a nice EP from 1952 including excerpts from two operas by Modest Moussorgsky and Alexander Borodin, both composer are from Russia.

This is not my kind of music, but however it´s interesting for me to discover this sort of music.

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Personnel:
Boris Christoff (vocals)
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Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Issay Dobrowen
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Chorus Of The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Chorus counducted by Douglas Robinson

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Tracklist:

Boris Godounov (Modest Moussorgsky)
01. Farewell And Death Of Boris – Act 4 / 13.32

Prince Igor (Alexander Borodin)
02. Prince Galitzky’s Aria (I Hate A Dreary Life) – Act 1 / 3.37
03. Kontchak’s Aria (How Are You Prince?) – Act 2 / 7.20

Boris Godounov (Modest Moussorgsky)
04. Varlaam’s Song (In The Town Of Kazan)-Act 1 / 2.26

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I got this rare item from Greygoose, thanks a lot !!!

Modest Mussorgsky – Pictures At An Exhibition + Choral Works (Claudio Abbado) (1994)

FrontCover1Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (March 21 [O.S. March 9], 1839 – March 28 [O.S. March 16], 1881), one of the Russian composers known as the Five, was an innovator of Russian music. He strove to achieve a uniquely Russian musical identity, often in deliberate defiance of the established conventions of Western music.

Many of his major works were inspired by Russian history, Russian folklore, and other nationalist themes, including the opera Boris Godunov, the orchestral tone poem Night on Bald Mountain, and the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition. However, while Mussorgsky’s music can be vivid and nationalistic, it does not always glorify the powerful and is at times (such as in The Field-Marshal) antimilitaristic.

For many years Mussorgsky’s works were mainly known in versions revised or completed by other composers. Many of his most important compositions have recently come into their own in their original forms, and some of the original scores are now also available.

With scintillating virtuosity in Pictures and Abbado bringing out the Russian color in the gloriously sung choral works, there is nothing routine about anything here.

Abbado has recorded all this music before: Pictures for DG (3/89) and the rest for RCA with the LSO Chorus in 1981 (6/93). The latter was a very good record, and remains thoroughly worthwhile at mid price, but the new live DG recording is even more spectacular, especially in St John’s Night on the Bare Mountain, the original version of Night on the Bare Mountain. Arthur Jacobs, who here provides the illuminating notes, suggests that the American word ‘bald’ is more faithful to the Russian than our term, ‘bare’. Here it certainly brings vividly graphic orchestral playing. Abbado obviously relishes the odd grotesque spurts of colour from the woodwind, and the Mussorgskian ruggedness. The composer’s structural clumsiness is not shirked and the lack of the smooth continuity found in the Rimsky arrangement does not impede the sense of forward momentum; indeed at the close the Russian dance element is emphasized, rather than the sinister pictorialism. (Of course the luscious slow ending is not here at all–that was added by Rimsky.)

ModestMussorgskyThe choral pieces are gloriously sung and again Abbado brings out their Russian colour, especially in the glowing yet sinuous “Chorus of priestesses”. Joshua is made to seem a minor masterpiece with its lusty opening (hints of Borodin’s Polovtsians) and its touching central solo (“The amorite women weep”). This is most eloquently sung by Elena Zaremba and the theme is then movingly taken up first by the women of the chorus and then the men, before the exultant music returns. The performance of Pictures at an Exhibition, like the choral items, gains from the spacious ambience and sumptuous overall textures. It is not, perhaps, an electrifying performance, but it is dramatic in its contrasts and very beautifully played. The refinement and colour of the evocation, so characteristic of Abbado, is most touching in “The old castle”, while “Tuileries” is gently evoked with a flexibly fluid control of tempo. “Bydlo” opens and closes mournfully, yet reaches a strong, positive immediacy as it finally comes close. The chicks dance with dainty lightness; then the hugely weighty lower orchestral tutti and bleating trumpet response of “Samuel Goldenberg” demonstrate the extraordinary range of tone this great orchestra can command.

After the scintillating virtuosity of “Market Place at Limoges” the sonorous Berlin brass makes a tremendous impact in “Catacombe” and Abbado’s tonal and dynamic graduations are characteristically astute; then ‘following a ferociously rhythmic “Baba-jaga” he steadily builds his three-dimensional “Great Gate at Kiev”, losing none of the grandeur of the gentle contrasts of the intoned chorale, with the tam-tam splashes at the end satisfyingly finalizing the effect. A most enjoyable concert: there is nothing routine about anything here. (by Gramophone Magazin, February 1995)

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Claudio Abbado

Personnel:
Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado
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Elena Zaremba (vocals on 05.)
Prague Philharmonic Chorus (choir on 05.)

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Tracklist:
01. A Night On The Bare Mountain 12.43
02. The Destruction Of Sennacherib 6.00
03. Salammbô – Chorus Of Priestesses 5.10
04. Oedipus in Athens – Chorus Of People In The Temple 3.07
05. Joshua 5.12

Pictures At An Exhibition:
06. Promenade 1.48
07. Gnomus 2.20
08. Promenade 1.04
09. The Old Castle 4.21
10. Promenade 0.34
11. The Tuileries Gardens 1.11
12. Bydlo 2.51
13. Promenade 0.45
14. Ballet Of The Chickens In Their Shells 1.14
15. Samuel Goldenberg And Schmuyle 2.10
16. The Market-Place At Limoges 1.20
17. The Catacombs (Sepulchrum romanum) 2.01
18. Cum mortuis in lingua mortua 2.04
19. The Hut On Fowl’s Legs (Baba-Yaga) 3.28
20. The Great Gate Of Kiev 5.16

Written by Modest Mussorgsky, orchestrated by Maurice Ravel

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