The composition of Alexander Borodin’s opera Prince Igor – based on the Song of Igor, a 12th-century Russian epic – got off to a slow start, with the composer’s career as an organic chemist preventing him from making much progress . Eventually his friends tricked him into composing certain parts of the work by inserting these numbers into a concert programme; later still, another friend, the celebrated Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, suggested making the opera a joint venture, putting himself at Borodin’s disposal as a musical secretary as well as orchestrating and composing several extracts. Yet the opera remained incomplete at Borodin’s death in 1887, and it was left to Rimsky-Korsakov and the young Alexander Glazunov to construct and finalise the work, premiering it in St Petersburg in 1890 to rave reviews.
Central to the opera is the way in which the Russians are distinguished from the Polovtsians through melodic characterisation: while Borodin uses features of Russian folk music to represent his compatriots, chromaticism, melismas and appoggiaturas – among other techniques – represent their ‘heathen’ opponents. These methods were already established ways of portraying Orientalism in Russian music, with the opera intended, in part, to be an homage to Mikhail Glinka, ‘the father of Russian music’.
The Sofia National Opera Chorus has garnered acclaim the world over, and here it is accompanied by the Sofia Festival Orchestra, which has performed throughout Europe as well as further afield with distinguished soloists such as Nicolai Gedda and Mirella Freni, to name but a few. The recording also boasts a wealth of celebrated vocalists, including Boris Martinovich and Stefka Evstatieva.
Recorded 14–20 July 1987, Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture, Sofia.
Contains extensive liner notes on the work and plot synopsis.
Reissue of one of the best loved and most “Russian” romantic operas: Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin, a Sony Classical recording long time not available.
Excellent performance by Bulgarian forces, starring Nikolai Ghiaurov and Nicola Ghiuselev, the magnificent choir of the Sofia National Opera (one of the best choirs of Europe) conducted by the lamented Emil Tchakarov, a great talent and favourite of Herbert von Karajan.
Booklet contains extensive liner notes and synopsis of the opera, libretto available on the www.brilliantclassics.com.