Home > Forum > The Oprichnik as MP3 download

The Oprichnik as MP3 download

A 1948 Soviet era recording of Tchaikovsky's The Oprichnik has been issued as an MP3 download, available since November 2009 from sites like ITunes and As far as I know this performance has never been released on CD. Back in 1966--encouraged by a rave review by John Osborne in the magazine High Fidelity--I obtained the domestic release of this historical recording on the label Ultraphone Records, which specialized in rare Soviet pressings of Russian opera. Osborne also praised Ultraphone's release of Khaikin's Maid of Orleans, which has been since issued on CD by Myto.

Admittedly, Ultraphone's Oprichnik suffered from lower fidelity sound than its release of The Maid, but at that time it was our only window into this early, imperfect but powerful work. With Alexander Orlov conducting the USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra, it boasts some powerful singing, particularly from Dimitri Tarkhov as Andrei and Ludmilla Legostaeva as Morozova; the trouser role of Basmanov is also well sung by Zara Doluhanova. Natalie Rozhdestvenskaya--the mother of conductor Gennadi Rozhdestvenski--sings the role of Natalia with a powerful expressive voice that is perhaps compromised by the inadequate Soviet recording technology, but, all around, this is perhaps the best performance of this piece available these days, eclipsing most of all the modern, live recording (on Dynamic) conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvenski, who had merely adequate soloists at his disposal. The 1980 recording, conducted by Provatorov, still available from Aquarius Records, has a stellar Natalia in Tamara Milashkina, but none of the rest of the singing comes up to the standard set by the 1948 Orlov.

I still have my old Ultraphone LPs of The Oprichnik and The Maid of Orleans, and I was skeptical that the current MP3 would offer any improvement over the sonic difficulties of the Oprichnik set, but I was pleased to discover that it does indeed sound better. Distortions remain, of course, particularly with dense, loud orchestration, but much of it is now surprisingly easy to listen to. Especially gratifying is to hear Legostaeva riveting performance of Morozova's aria in Act 2, which is followed by her sublime duet with Andrei. Tarkhov's tenor voice is unusual to my ears; it has a plangent quality not unlike Corelli's, and his commitment to this role is obvious.

The download is not cheap. Most sites offer it for $29.99, with Amazon being the least expensive that I could find at $25.49:

Gordon Thomas

This discussion is closed and has been archived, but you are welcome to try our new forum at:

Please note that we are not responsible for the content of external web-sites

This page was last updated on 05 November 2013