Boris Christoff's voice must surely be one of the most immediately recognizable in the history of song, and no one, I think, has been better suited to Mussorgsky's darkly colored songs (with one possible exception). In fact, Christoff recorded (virtually) all of them. I have not heard the complete set, but if this "best of" selection, carefully remastered, of the most famous songs is anything to go by I am sorely tempted.
The most controversial interpretation here must surely be the rendition of the cycle The Nursery. It is not that Christoff fails to be wonderfully sensitive, variegated and, well, alluring, but his was definitely a big voice, suited for portraying kings, emperors and devils, and there is a certain trace of the bizarre in his attempt to portray a little boy and his nanny. Still, this interpretation must be heard for its thoughtfulness, imagination and wonderful voice. I cannot imagine any complaints about Christoff's versions of the other two major cycles, the bleakly horrifying Sunless (truly horrifying in this version, at least) and the magnificently morbid, stirring Songs and Dances of Death. And of course Christoff, one of the ultimate interpreters of Mephistopheles, is incomparable in the famous, darkly humorous Song of the flea. Oh yes, it is exaggerated, but nevertheless completely perfect.
Throughout Christoff is sensitively accompanied. Alex André Labinsky provides idiomatic piano playing and the Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Francaise under Georges Tzipine is never less than satisfying even if they also lack the last touch of color and textural variety - though there is plenty of wikckedness and menace. Texts and translations are included and the sound is decent, even though the recordings (made in 1955 and 1957) are hardly up to today's standards. Still, this is an unmissable disc (unless you already have the three disc set, I guess); urgently recommended.