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Great Perf: Boris Godunov


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Product Details

  • Performer: Thomas Schippers
  • Composer: Mussorgsky Modest
  • Audio CD (Sept. 26 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sme
  • ASIN: B000F6YW2Q
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #177,039 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Prologue, Scene 2 (The Square In The Moscow Kremlin): Prince Shusisky: Long Live Tsar Boris Feodorovich! - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
2. Chrous: Even As Glory To The Radiant Sun - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
3. Boris: My Soul Is Torn With Anguish! - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
4. Chorus: Glory! - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
5. I Have Attained The Highest Power - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
6. Boris: What Do You Want? - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
7. Prince Shuisky: Mighty Lord... - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
8. Prince Shuisky: It Is Not Death That Is Hard To Bear... - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
9. Boris: God, How Stifling It's Become - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
10. Boris: the Tsarevich, Quickly! - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
11. Boris: Listen! It's Ringing!...The Funeral Bell Is Ringing! - Columbia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
12. Promenade - The Philadelphia Orchestra
13. I. The Gnome - The Philadelphia Orchestra
14. Promenade - The Philadelphia Orchestra
15. II. The Old Castle - The Philadelphia Orchestra
16. Promenade - The Philadelphia Orchestra
17. III. Children's Dispute After Play - The Philadelphia Orchestra
18. IV. Ox-Cart - The Philadelphia Orchestra
19. Promenade - The Philadelphia Orchestra
20. V. Ballet Of The Unhatched Chickens - The Philadelphia Orchestra
See all 26 tracks on this disc

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Very Fine "Boris" Excerpts, a "Pictures" to Treasure Aug. 4 2006
By M. C. Passarella - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The "Great Performances" sobriquet certainly applies to the Philadelphia version of "Pictures at an Exhibition." Ormandy is sometimes accused of stodginess, and that was probably true of his recordings from the RCA and especially the EMI years, but here he chooses tempi that are just right, probably a little fast, in fact, for Bydlo, the lumbering ox-cart. But with virtuoso playing from low strings and the tuba player, this is not merely a valid approach but an arresting one. The balances and the color Ormandy extracts from the orchestra are enhanced by a recording that I find frankly amazing. Many fine Philadelphia performances from the mid-sixties were done in by the Columbia engineers, who provided coarse, blowsy sound. This is true, for instance of Ormandy's otherwise successful Nielsen recordings. But here the sound, while bigger than life in typical Columbia fashion, is very real in timbre, and the ambience is entirely believable as well. Percussion is very much front and center but without any impression of spotlighting. In fact, detail is admirably clear from top to bottom; this is an excellent sound recording by any standards. Certainly, Ormandy's "Pictures" can be placed alongside other classic recordings such as Reiner's, if not at the top of any short list of such recordings.

The recording of excerpts from Boris Godunov is fine as well, though not indispensable. This is really a showcase for George London's talents, and as such it is remarkable. The other soloists are fine, but this is really London's show. The well-regarded Thomas Schippers shows that he was a fine opera conductor, securing first-rate playing from the Columbia Symphony and alert and enthusiastic if not especially idiomatically Russian singing from the chorus. The sound is pretty remarkable for 1961 as well, and Sony's transfer is beyond cavil, even if they couldn't do anything to reduce the bit of tape hiss that is part and parcel of many 60s recordings.

So at Sony's mid-price, you get one of the best "Pictures" ever recorded, in sound that is unexpectedly brilliant. Add to that a very attractive selection of music from Mussorgsky's greatest opera, and you have a real deal, in my estimation.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Finest Pictures at an Exhibition ever? June 14 2006
By SwissDave - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I'm truly glad Ormandy's legendary recording has become available again. Although I will probably always listen to the original piano version of Pictures (Janis, Horowitz, Richter) more often than Ravel's adaption for orchestra, whereas Reiner's interpretation is made to impress, this I believe is the one to fall head over heels for.

Schippers's 1961 Scenes from Boris Godunov with London (most impressive as Boris), Allen, Fried and Kolk that, at least so far as the cover is concerned, seem to get top billing in this release, are really growing on me, too, by the way - so much so I almost always play the disc complete, and only occasionally Ormandy's Pictures exclusively. Compares very favourably to that famous recording of the (actually not quite) complete opera, you know, the one with Boris as Boris, I mean, the one with Christoff, Christoff and (who else?) Christoff... ;^)

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A gorgeous accuont of 'Pictures' from Ormandy's salad days June 14 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Although far from being universally esteemed by critics, Ormandy was beloved by audiences, and this Pictures at an Exhibition shows why. The playing by the Philadelphia Orch. is incredibly plush and easy to listen to, although Ormandy's penchant for blandness keeps the music's tension down. As remastered here, the original CBS sonics do full justice to the playing--from the first Promenade one is aware that so far as execution goes, Ormandy's reading can stand up to Reiner's classic recording with the Chicago Sym. on RCA. Musically, however, Reiner is much more incisive and dramatic.

George London made headlines in the Cold War as the first American to be invited to sing the role of Boris Godunov in the Soviet Union, and these excerpts from the opera demonstrate his beautiful tone and rock-solid intonation, without a trace of wobble. London doesn't try for Boris Christoff's scenery-chewing anguish (who could hope to match that?), but in its resonance and richness, this is a treasurable recording. Schippers accompanies well enough.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great performances in a "sonic spectacular" at a bargain price Dec 20 2008
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is a record on which everything works: the performances, the engineering, the programming - and, mirabile dictu, all at a bargain price.

If you do not have George London's complete 1963 recording of "Boris", these excerpts of his finest role, honed to perfection over ten years until it became one of the most affecting and spine-chilling characterisations of the tortured tsar you could ever wish to hear, form an excellent alternative. It is no surprise to learn that London was Birgit Nilsson's favourite singing partner; that magnificent bass-baritone encompasses every facet of the more complex 1872 version of Boris (in Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestration,of course - not that that matters). He fines his huge voice down for the tender moments, inflects the words with groans and cries without offending musicality and is truly frightening in his anguished delusions. (Is it too fanciful to remark that, given that London died prematurely from heart disease, there is a poignant, proleptic significance in the authenticity of London's acting of Boris' collapse and death?) The liner notes are a charming, informative and perceptive essay by London himself; I only wish space had been found for a libretto. As a performance, I certainly do not find his interpretation inferior to that of such distinguished colleagues as Christoff or Talvela.

The conducting of Thomas Schippers - another great artist whose career was cut short by his death from lung cancer aged 46 - is as vital and responsive as one could wish. The orchestral playing is sonorous and flexible. The chorus are willing if a little well-mannered and lacking Russian vibrancy - but that matters little; this is London's show, although his supporting singers are more than adequate.

As if all this were not enough, this disc also supplies perhaps what is still the finest recorded performance of Mussorgsky's "Pictures". The sonic quality is astonishing for 1966; the Columbia engineers do us proud. Ormandy works his celebrated magic with the Philadelphia Orchestra: the sound is warm, shimmering and translucent, beautifully balanced, with all the parts emerging clearly. Ormandy builds to a thunderous climax in the "Great Gate of Kiev" (which was never built!); the chimes, timpani and brass are overwhelming without losing clarity and the listener misses no detail despite the excitement. (Let me also recommend another favorite Ormandy/Philadelphia recording: the 1960 Strauss "Heldenleben" - an overwhelming version.)

In short, a disc which should be in everyone's collection.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Pictures in "Philadelphia Sound" Sept. 18 2009
By J. R. Lewis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is the best "Pictures" performance to place side-by-side with the justifiably legendary Reiner/Chicago account on RCA. While Reiner's is incisively brilliant and dramatic, the Ormandy is more relaxed and voluptuous-sounding. This is not to say that it's in any way slow or lacking in dramatic tension (as Ormandy's later recordings on RCA could be); it's simply a different approach to the music. A warmer and more sumptuous approach that has a different feel to it than Reiner's "take no prisoners" performance. One might say that it's a little less stunning and a little more voluptuous.

The recording captures the "Philadelphia Sound," including the nonpareil string section, to perfection, and all sections of the orchestra play wonderfully and in perfect balance.

I own many versions of this music, but this (CBS/Sony) Ormandy recording is one I wouldn't be without.


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