Bach and Boris: Superb Soviet-Era Recordings!

Last Tuesday we released two new titles that I think you’ll enjoy!

Over her long 45-year career, Tatiana Nikolayeva (1924-1993) established herself as one of the finest pianists and pedagogues that the Soviet Union has ever produced. While a star in the Soviet world, it was not until the 1980s that her talents were known in “the West.” Unlike her contemporary Sviatoslav Richter who toured the globe from the 1950s until his last years, Nikolayeva was chiefly occupied with her many duties as a professor of the Moscow Conservatory (where she mentored many acclaimed pianists) and recording for the famed state-owned Melodiya record label. In 1983 she received a top honor from her government as she was named a People’s Artist of the USSR. Through the last decade of her life she was in great demand across the world for performances and competitions. Though her repertoire was immense, she is best known for her mastery of Beethoven and especially Bach. This album contains excellent performances of many of Bach’s signature works, and comes highly recommended by Gramophone magazine.

As part of the circle of composers known as The Five, Modest Mussorgsky was one of the leading figures in the Russian nationalist movement in music. By rejecting the orthodoxy of Western Europe in favor of a more indigenous style rooted in the works of Glinka and the folk music of their vast country, The Five established a distinct Russian style and sound. Mussorgsky created some of the best-known works of Russian Romanticism, including Pictures at an Exhibition, the mighty tone poem Night on Bare Mountain, and his masterpiece the opera Boris Godunov. Set against the backdrop of the turbulent “Time of Troubles” on late-sixteenth and early-seventeen centuries, the opera is the story of the titular regent and later Tsar of Russia who still proves to be one of the more controversial figures in Russian history. Boris Godunov is praised for its originality and its bold transgressions against the Italian/French model of opera, even as its critics point to some missteps by the young composer. Some of the coarse bleakness of Mussorgsky’s composition was later refined by Rimsky-Korsakov, which made the work more palatable to an international audience. Boris still remains as a centerpiece of Russian opera, exalted for its role in establishing a national idiom. This 1982 recording (remastered 2012) comes from the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre, the most celebrated and important theater and opera house in Russia. The performance is led by the famed baritone Yevgeny Nesterenko and the entire cast is comprised of luminaries of late Soviet opera that was deeply praised by Gramophone. This complete recording of the opera is available as a 3-CD set or as a digital download, and is one of the most authentic recordings made of this work.

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