Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 39

Thread: Boris Godunov - Mussorgsky's or RK's orchestration?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    6,427
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    10

    Default Boris Godunov - Mussorgsky's or RK's orchestration?

    I saw Boris Godunov at the Met today.

    Excellent production. Beautiful minimalistic staging with period costumes. Very good stage directing with the chorus moving harmoniously in and out and adding lots of local color. Impressive scenes of violence. Excellent singing from the entire cast, mostly Russian, with the only big name being Rene Pape in the title role. Rene was outstanding, very convincing in his mad scene and death scene.

    This is a very good production of a great opera, I hope it comes out on DVD/BluRay.

    But instead of just posting a blurb about it in Current Watching, I thought I should propose a slightly different question about it.

    I have at home a DVD of the Rimsky-Korsakoff orchestration. Not only
    RK changed the score a lot and added music of his own, he also altered the sequence of scenes - in his supposedly improved version, Boris' death is the last scene.

    Today I saw at the Met the Mussorgsky orchestration, considered to be rough, less harmonic, less melodious, and less accessible. In Mussorgsky's version, the Holy Fool is the one who ends the opera, and Boris' death is followed by the scene with Dimitri marching towards Moscow.

    I know that Rimsky-Korsakoff didn't do this out of arrogance, but rather, out of genuine interest for helping his alcoholic friend Mussorgsky. But regardless of his noble intent, I believe that what he did is preposterous.

    First of all, I actually like *a lot* better the Mussorgsky orchestration. This opera is violent, there is torture, killings, oppression, evil and corrupt politicians. This is not the place for touching melody. I know that Mussorgsky was practically an amateur and not a very skilfull orchestrator, but in my humble opinion, he got it exactly right in Boris Godunov. His score matches perfectly the raw emotions of the opera, while RK's doesn't.

    And furthermore, putting Boris' death at the end is the conventional ending that RK thought to be proper like in every other opera, but it then makes of this opera the story of the man Boris Godunov.

    Putting Dimitri's march to Moscow at the end and the Holy Fool with the last word, lamenting the sort of Mother Russia and pointing to the fact that the more it changes, the more it remains the same, makes of this opera something much beyond the story of of man, but rather, a historical arc about a country. That's a much more significant and interesting ending, which also matches a lot more the intention of the composer - he wanted to compose a historical opera, a profoundly Russian opera, not just an opera about a ruler with a sinful past, ruined by guilt. This also exists in the opera, and contributes to its greatness, but this opera is *really* great because of its historical force, its comment on the nature of power.

    So, bravo Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakoff, stay away please. This masterpiece doesn't need any help.

    Opinions?
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #2
    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Worcestershire, England
    Posts
    10,024
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I agree with you. Moussorgsky revised/expanded BG himself and presumably was happy enough with the results at the time. Although I was aware that RK had later took it under his wing I had no idea that he felt the need to mess about with the ending - bad move: the opera is much better served where the final scene hints at the seismic repercussions of Boris's death and would have infinitely more impact than ending the opera with the death of Boris itself. Although a fan of RK some of his own operatic work could have done with an editor's pencil. A classic case of 'physician heal thyself'?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    6,427
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    10

    Default

    Yes, Mussorgsky reworked it. He added the Lithuanian scene (because the producers said he needed more soprano music and a love story, LOL), and I saw it for the first time yesterday and loved it. It's a good addition. The Met version yesterday got elements of all three of Mussorgsky's version. They did a good job selecting the best parts, and the bulk of it was his third version.

    I'm glad that you agree with me about his versions being superior to RK's, in another forum people kept insisting that RK's orchestration is superior and I just can't see it.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #4
    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Worcestershire, England
    Posts
    10,024
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    In hindsight I have to admit that my agreement is provisional simply because I have never heard RK's results so I can't judge on the musical aspect. The mere fact that he replaced the ending is enough to convince me that I wouldn't enjoy it as much anyway. Are most conductors inclined to stay totally faithful to either of Moussorgsky's versions or have they been known to incorporate any elements of RM's musical changes but without changing the scene sequence of either version?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    6,427
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by elgars ghost View Post
    In hindsight I have to admit that my agreement is provisional simply because I have never heard RK's results so I can't judge on the musical aspect. The mere fact that he replaced the ending is enough to convince me that I wouldn't enjoy it as much anyway. Are most conductors inclined to stay totally faithful to either of Moussorgsky's versions or have they been known to incorporate any elements of RM's musical changes but without changing the scene sequence of either version?
    As far as I know conductors either adopt the entire M orchestration or the entire RK orchestration without mixing up the music. Where they can play around is with the order of the scenes which profoundly impacts on the general meaning of the opera. As is often the case with others works with multiple versions and even those with one version, conductors and directors sometimes pick scenes or arias from different versions, skip some parts, etc.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #6
    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Worcestershire, England
    Posts
    10,024
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Almaviva, had M lived longer do you think there might have been some scope for a follow-up? The 'False Dmitris' saga and the rise of Mikhail Romanov seems to be quite sustainable as a storyline.

  7. #7
    Banned
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    2
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    'As far as I know conductors either adopt the entire M orchestration or the entire RK orchestration'. Ther are may orchestrations (2 by Rimsky, Shostakovich - too heavy orchestration in hte latter. etc) At the Bolshoi. it has long been the tradition to perform a mixture of either of Rimsky's versions with the St Basil scene orchestrated by Ippolotov Ivanov. This necessitates a trimming of hte Kromy scene to remove the duplicate music. The first studio recording of the work by Golovanov uses a mixture of Rimsky, Musorgsky (1872) and Ippolotov-Ivanov

    To correct an earlier posting, the 1868 version was expanded in the 1872 version to include the Polish and not Lithuanian scene
    Khovanshchina and Boris were to form a tryptich on Russian history. The third work was never composed.
    The saga of the False Dmitri was picked up by Dvorak (Dmitri)

  8. #8
    Senior Member Sebastien Melmoth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Hôtel d'Alsace, PARIS
    Posts
    503
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    I saw Boris Godunov at the Met today.
    So, bravo Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakoff, stay away please. This masterpiece doesn't need any help. Opinions?
    Lucky you!
    That production will be broadcast on a MET live Saturday matinee on 12 March 2011.
    http://www.operainfo.org/

    http://www.operainfo.org/broadcast/o...=89&language=1

    Otherwise I can only say I have two Boris-es: (1) Abbado with Mussorgsky's 1872; (2) Karajan with Rimsky's version.
    http://www.amazon.com/Mussorgsky-Kot...8543703&sr=1-1
    (discount reissue) http://www.amazon.com/Mussorgsky-Bor...8543703&sr=1-2

    http://www.amazon.com/Mussorgsky-Bor...=cm_cr_pr_pb_i

    And for me Karajan-Rimsky wins hands down!!!

  9. #9
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    6,427
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by elgars ghost View Post
    Almaviva, had M lived longer do you think there might have been some scope for a follow-up? The 'False Dmitris' saga and the rise of Mikhail Romanov seems to be quite sustainable as a storyline.
    Definitely. The story (in real History) evolves pretty rapidly, with Dimitri killing Boris' son, enslaving and raping his daughter, and getting killed three years later. Top opera material!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #10
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    6,427
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Sebastien Melmoth View Post
    And for me Karajan-Rimsky wins hands down!!!
    In what way exactly? Rimsky-Korsakoff's version may be easier on the ears, but does it have the same dramatic impact?
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  11. #11
    Junior Member Agatha's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Moscow-Vancouver(BC)
    Posts
    35
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Almaviva - thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

    dramatic impact
    the impact is huge! I am russian and not as experienced as you to compare RK ans M orchestrations so will talk only about "impact". Somewhere here on LC I saw somebody was saying "what is it with russians, and their obsession with "Mother Russia"". Thought indeed, what is it with us that it is so painful to see violence scenes in Boris! Guess the genius of Mussorgsky produced such an effect.

    Would the opera be worse if there was no Polish scene? Mnishek is the only female role, otherwise it is masculine opera, which is true. At that time there was no place for women in politics, at least not in Russia - dark and cruel.

    I too hope to see it on DVD, to be able to listen to music and orchestration and not to be swarmed by emotions.

    I saw the live broadcast of the opera in HD in a local theater on October 23.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    6,427
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Agatha View Post
    Almaviva - thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!


    the impact is huge! I am russian and not as experienced as you to compare RK ans M orchestrations so will talk only about "impact". Somewhere here on LC I saw somebody was saying "what is it with russians, and their obsession with "Mother Russia"". Thought indeed, what is it with us that it is so painful to see violence scenes in Boris! Guess the genius of Mussorgsky produced such an effect.

    Would the opera be worse if there was no Polish scene? Mnishek is the only female role, otherwise it is masculine opera, which is true. At that time there was no place for women in politics, at least not in Russia - dark and cruel.

    I too hope to see it on DVD, to be able to listen to music and orchestration and not to be swarmed by emotions.

    I saw the live broadcast of the opera in HD in a local theater on October 23.
    Thanks for your comments, and congratulations for the stupendous art of your home country.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  13. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    New Rochelle, NY.
    Posts
    1,922
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Rimsky thought that many of Mussorgsky's harmonies were too crude and unfortunately bowdlerized them with more academically correct ones,thus making the opera seem smoother and more conventional. But unfortunately, he missed the point of these "crude" harmonies altogether.
    Rimsky's orchestration is very effective, but it's too slick and euphonious,and it waters down the stark and rugged power of thew original.

  14. #14
    Banned
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Suburbs of Montreal
    Posts
    2,708
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Moussorgsky had never finished an opera...he never finished anything, he was a drankard. Probably you saw the Dmitri Shostakovich ending...

    Martin Pitchon

  15. #15
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    6,427
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by myaskovsky2002 View Post
    Moussorgsky had never finished an opera...he never finished anything, he was a drankard. Probably you saw the Dmitri Shostakovich ending...

    Martin Pitchon
    I still like him better. Nice drunkard.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •