This release comes as quite a surprise. Although John Lucas in his 1993 biography of Sir Reginald Goodall refers in a footnote to the existence of a BBC radio recording of the performance of Boris Godunov given at the Royal Opera Covent Garden on 10 June 1961 under Goodall’s baton, he does not list it in his discography of the conductor’s work in the same volume. It was in the event — with the exception of a single performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Golden Cockerel — the last conducting engagement undertaken by Goodall at Covent Garden for ten years. When he next appeared in the pit at the Royal Opera to conduct Parsifal – a BBC recording of one of those performances has already emerged on CD – he had already established his reputation as a Wagnerian. But he had always enjoyed critical approval for his interpretation of Boris, and the appearance of another opera in the sparse representation of Goodall on disc is to be wholeheartedly welcomed.
Modest Mussorgsky's opera in prologue and four acts is performed by the Kirov Opera with performances from Olga Borodina, Alexei Steblianko and Sergei Leiferkust. Boris Godunov has obtained the throne of Russia by murdering the rightful heir Dmitry. An old monk, Pimen, witnessed this, and convinces his apprentice Grigory to avenge Dmitry's death. In the following years Grigory poses as Dmitry, raising an army against Boris, who is now convinced that he is being punished for the murder.
Boris Godunov is the story not only of a troubled leader but of an entire nation, and its history is as eventful as that of Mother Russia herself. In this new production, the legendary director Andrei Konchalovsky presents a personal vision of the opera that takes Mussorgsky’s bare and monumental first version as its basis, while adding the final scene from the composer’s revision, in which not only the Tsar but the people themselves reveal their fatal flaws. Orlin Anastassov stars in the title role, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda.
At last, Sony offers a domestic reissue of the finest recording of Pictures at an Exhibition in the history of the universe. Well, okay, there are other terrific versions, including Reiner (RCA) and Abbado (DG), but this one has everything–great playing and a big, gutsy interpretation that not only characterizes each section beautifully but also welds the suite together into an extremely satisfying whole. The panoramic final pages, from the start of the tolling bell section, have no peer in terms of detail and sheer sonic splendor, and this is one of the best-sounding recordings that Ormandy and Philly ever got from Sony. So the bottom line is that if you don't own this and you love the work, you need it, and urgently. To be fair, I understand why reissuing it wasn't a priority: Sony has other, excellent versions of the piece, including Bernstein's and Szell's; but even among an embarrassment of riches this is the one to have.
- David Hurwitz
A sequence of beautiful wintry pictures from Moscow – the Moscow River, the Kremlin etc – bring us to the Bolshoi Theatre, a quick interior and then the applause for conductor Alexander Lazarev and we are in the pit for the prelude. After that the opera unfolds scene by scene in a lavish production, colourful, realistic, traditional, with magnificent stage-sets and a throng of choristers and extras filling the enormous stage of the Bolshoi, reminding us that the main protagonist in this opera is the Russian people… – Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International