Composers: Mussorgsky
Compositions: Boris Godunov
Performers: Gothenburg SO/Kent Nagano
Catalogue Number: BIS BIS2320 (2CD)

The original 1869 version of Boris Godunov makes a rare appearance on disc in this lithe, live, darkly lyrical recording blessed by an intelligent, ardently sung Alexander Tsymbalyuk in the title role. The stress on the inner life of the troubled, tormented Tsar is pronounced, Tsymbalyuk sounding more considered and controlling of his chiaroscuro palette of emotions even while falling short of the aching, un-hinged intensity of Ghiaurov (Decca), Christoff (Naxos) or Talvela (EMI).

What compels here is Nagano’s attention to mood and atmosphere, his measured but forward-moving pacing, and obvious feeling for the poetry and drama of a sepulchral score illuminated by moments of baleful beauty. The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra play with a suitably raw, Russian amalgam of pulse-slowing gravitas and heart-on-sleeve sentiment, the exemplary Göteborg Opera Chorus managing to be both involving, intimate participants and luminously incisive commentators.

There’s supporting strength, too, in Sergei Skorokhodov’s nuanced Grigory, Alexey Tikhomirov’s characterful Varlaam, Hanna Husáhr’s delicate Xenia and the solid Pimen of Mika Kares. Mussorgsky aficionados will need no recommending to seek this out, newcomers will welcome Nagano’s tempered approach and the becoming richness of orchestral and choral contributions lent additional clarity and immediacy by a wonderfully engineered, involving recording.

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