Originally planned as the second part of a trilogy consisting of Boris Godunov, with Pugachoyovschina the projected third and final part,Khovanschina occupied the composer during 1872, as Boris was being ‘adjusted’ to suit the theatre authorities ahead of the premier.The plot concerns the great militia revolt of 1682, and the reign of Tsarina Sophia Aleyevna as guardian of her feeble minded brother Ivan and his half brother Peter. Peter later overthrew her and reigned as Tsar Peter I, known as Peter the Great. A divisive figure, Peter is credited with bringing the enlightenment to Russia, though many (such as Mussorgsky’s fellow composer and friend, Balakirev) claim he destroyed Russian individuality by introducing Western thoughts and culture to Mother Russia.
This subject appealed greatly to Mussorgsky. In music the conflict between western and traditional Russian thought was highlighted by the Mighty Handful on one side, and the Western-facing Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein and Glazunov on the other.
Mussorgky enjoyed working on the opera: ‘I revel in collecting material,my head glows like a cauldron under which a fire is constantly being stoked up’ he wrote in July 1872. He worked on Khovanschina until his death from acute alcoholism in 1881. A concert performance of parts of the work in 1879 proved a disheartening experience. The opera was left incomplete, Rimsky Korsakov editing and scoring it in 1883, with heavy cuts. Stravinsky and Ravel re-orchestrated it in 1912 for Diaghilev, and between 1939-59 Shostakovich worked on what is now the standard performing edition of the opera.This recording however uses the first edition as prepared by Rimsky.
- Booklet notes.
- Recording made in 1993.
- Superb Bulgarian cast, chorus (very important in this massive and dramatic work!) and orchestra, with perfect feeling for the Slavic sentiment and drama.