Slovenian National Opera, Ljubljana
conductor Samo Hubad Full list of soloists below Studio recording from 1955
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Der Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna
conductor Willem van Otterloo
Studio recording from 1958
Transfer 1. from Philips white label test pressings ABL.3148/49
Transfer 2. from Fontana white label test pressing EFR 2012
XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, September-October 2010
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Mussorgsky
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Der Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna
conducted by Willem van Otterloo
Recorded at Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, 23 February 1958
Transfer from Fontana 10" white label test pressing EFR 2012
CD, MP3 and FLAC information:
CDs: Double set - CD1 = Acts 1 & 2, CD2 = Act 3; Night on the Bare Mountain; Polovstian Dances
FLACs: Continuous tracks with a short pause between acts.
MP3: Two MP3s in a Zip filed which correspond to the two CDs as outlined above, complete with individual cue sheets
Please check our help section for help with FLAC, MP3, Cue and Zip files. Downloads also include PDF files with printable covers and JPG files with front cover artwork, which is also embedded into individual music files. A score of Sorochynsti Fair is included with all downloads.
"Whenever one comes up against a Russian stage work, the first thing is to establish who composed it ; for it often seems as if the main occupation of Russian musicians is writing each other's operas-after which everyone quarrels and claims it would be better another way. The habit of leaving works incomplete—whether through illness, loss of interest or plain indolence—seems to have been endemic among the famous nineteenth - century Russians ; so that it should come as no particular surprise to learn, from an admirably comprehensive accompanying note by Paul Lamm, that Mussorgsky's Sorochintsy Fair has had to be orchestrated and completed by Liadov, Karatygin, Cui, Tcherepnin and, finally, Shebalin, whose version is the one here employed.
The story—a grotesque one, full of digressions and typically Russian muddles-is set in the Ukraine, whose national musical characteristics are mirrored in the score. Some form of lifeline, either the complete libretto (available for an extra 7s. 6d.), or the detailed account of the plot in the booklet issued with the discs, is absolutely imperative if anything whatever is to be made of this work. For, though the lyrical passages are easy enough to bang on to, the - music of the broad humorous parts is scrappy to a degree ; and it must be admitted that, attractive as are some of the melodies, their treatment is frequently very crude and thin. Only two sections are likely to be known to most people—the final Gopak and the Night on the Bare Mountain, which reappears here in a choral version to accompany the scene of Gritzko's nightmare.
The piece is played with gusto by the Ljubljana company, and the sheer high spirits they bring to it are infectious, even while one recognises the shortcomings in the performance. The orchestra is enthusiastic rather than polished, and the chorus very rough indeed, but the soloists are, many of them, of a high calibre. At the top of the list I would put Mme Stritar as the discontented scold and the tenor Shtrukel, who proves himself a first-rate character comedian, in the part of her gluttonous paramour. Their comic lovescene in Act 2 is a joy. The Parassia—a small part—is good, and the Gritzko has a suitably young-sounding ringing tenor. The Cherevik is too often careless about the exact pitching of his notes.
The recording has been made as if from a concert performance, with little suggestion of stage perspective or dramatic placing of the voices, and one cannot help regretting that for so unfamiliar a work (which, so far as I can recollect, has not been seen in this country since Jay Pomeroy's production at the Cambridge 'Theatre in the early days of the war) more attention was not given to production ". Those with perfect pitch must also steel themselves to transposing the recording down a semitone mentally. Still, as a curiosity, this recording is well worth hearing." - Gramophone review, November 1957
This is the second of two rare Russian opera recordings by the Slovenian National Opera which came my way from the collection of the former art director of Philips UK. It was sold as a boxed set of two LPs; in this case I was working from white-label test pressings for these transfers and had no notes or indication of where anything started or finished.
This lack of information turned out to be one of the greatest challenges, and it took a while to track down an alternative copy of the recording which I could both download as a reference and use to work out where the acts began and ended! Thus the tracks here are more or less split using the template of a mid-1990s recording by Yevgeni Brazhnik, and I've had to do what I can with the badly-translated Russian titles provided with that release, the most recent of only four complete recordings of this opera.
As the Gramophone reviewer points out, the version heard here is that completed by Shebalin in 1931, which is fortunately also used by all the other recordings to date. Unfortunately the score I tracked down, and which is included in the downloads, is an earlier version completed by Cui in 1917, which diverges from the recording in a number of places, not least the entire relocation of the Dream section to the third act.
This Dream music had been adapted by Mussorgsky from his earlier composition, Night on the Bare (or Bald) Mountain. Ironically the version we know now of that piece is one which Rimsky-Korsakov adapted from Sorochyntsi Fair! As I had space left over I took the opportunity to add Willem van Otterloo's 1958 recording of this, together with the flip side (Borodin's Polovtsian Dances) to the second disc of this set for comparison.
As far as the recording quality goes, both recordings were very well made. A side effect of the non-staged style of the opera as noted by Gramophone's 1957 reviewer is that all the words are exceptionally clear and well captured and nobody singing away from the microphones - as I've failed to find a libretto and the score is in Russian script, this may prove handy to the listener! What was less welcome in Sorochyntsi Fair is the prevelance of pre- and post-echo throughout the recording, something which took a great deal of time and effort to eliminate.
Overall, however, both recordings here have come up very nicely indeed, and are excellent examples of the progress made in sound quality during the 1950s. XR remastering has helped bring them forward a decade or two, and I recommend the Ambient Stereo issues.
Mussorgsky worked on the opera between 1874 and 1880, in competition with his work on Khovanshchina (1872–1880); both were incomplete at the time of his death in 1881. He reused some music that he had written previously (such as the "Market Scene" from Act II of the ill-fated Mlada of 1872, used for the opening scene of Fair). Incorporation of the music of Night on Bald Mountain as a dream sequence involving the hero was a late addition to the scenario in the course of composition, despite the fact that such an episode is not suggested by the original story. Although Mussorgsky managed to complete some numbers and even some of the orchestration, significant portions of the scenario were left without any music at all or only in bare sketches.
Several subsequent composers and editors (cited below) played partial or maximal roles in bringing the work into a performable state. The first staged performance, with spoken sections, occurred on 8 October 1913 in Moscow under Konstantin Saradzhev. Beginning in 1917, the first of several fully sung versions reached the stage.
Completed versions of the opera took place as follows:
The Fair at Sorochyntsi is not a part of the standard operatic repertoire in the West. The best-known numbers from Fair are the orchestral Introduction and the closing Gopak. Mussorgsky also arranged the Gopak and the market scene for pianosolo.
Note: Roles marked with an asterisk (*) are supernatural characters appearing only in the Shebalin Edition, which incorporates the Dream Vision of the Peasant Lad (Сонное видение паробка) [see Mussorgsky's A Night on the Bare Mountain].
At the fair, merchants are peddling their wares to the crowd of visitors arriving from all around. The Gypsy makes reference to a red jacket that the devil is looking for, while the lad Gritsko woos Parasya. Her father, Cherevik, at first is indignant at this forwardness, but, after realizing that Gritsko is the son of a close friend, he agrees to let Gritsko marry his daughter. The two men go into the tavern to celebrate, as evening settles and the people disperse.
Cherevik and his buddy, Kum, comes out of the tavern in a drunken state. After they wander around in the dark, Khrivya, Cherevik's wife, comes out of their house, and he announces Parasya's engagement. But Khivrya objects, and, while Gritsko overhears, drunken Cherevik concedes that the wedding will not happen. Gritsko, alone, bemoans his sadness. The Gypsy enters, and the two make a pact: Gritsko will give the Gypsy his oxen for fifteen rubles if the latter can make Cherevik change his mind.
Intermezzo: Dream Vision of the Peasant Lad
Alone, Gritsko falls asleep and has a dream involving witches and devils. They are dispelled by church bells.
Inside Kum's house, where they are lodging, Khivrya quarrels with Cherevik, getting him to leave, so that she may keep her secret rendezvous with Afanasy Ivanovich, the son of the village priest. When the latter arrives, she offers him her culinary delicacies, which he devours. In the midst of their amorous encounter a knock is heard at the door. Afanasy hides on a shelf, and in walk Cherevik and Kum, with friends, alarmed by a rumor that someone has seen the red jacket and the devil. Kum begins to give more of the legend, concluding with the remark that the devil appears every year at the fair with a pig's face, looking for the red jacket. Suddenly a pig's snout is seen in the window, and everyone runs about in confusion.
On a street, as a result of the superstitious confusion of the previous scene, Cherevik and Kum are being chased by the Gypsy and some lads. The latter accuse the two older men of stealing a mare, and tie them up. Gritsko enters, extracting a promise from Cherevik to have the wedding to Parasya the next day, and the two older men are released.
On a street in front of Kum's house, Parasya at first is sad about Gritsko, but then cheers herself up with a little hopak, in which Cherevik joins without her noticing. Kum and Gritsko enter, and Cherevik blesses the two lovers, only to be met by Khivrya's rage, which prompts the Gypsy to call on the lads to restrain her. The people celebrate the wedding with a gopak.
Principal arias and numbers
Introduction: "A Hot Day in Little Russia", (Orchestra)
In 1881 Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov suggested that Anatoly Lyadov finish the composition of the work, the libretto to be completed by Mussorgsky's old friend A.A. Golenishchev-Kutuzov. However, Lyadov orchestrated only five numbers (published in 1904) and did not finish the opera. Vyacheslav Karatygin later edited some fragments of Mussorgsky's manuscripts, which were orchestrated by Lyadov and performed in 1911. The next year Vladimir Senilov published his orchestration of Parasya's dumka from Act III. Yury Sakhnovsky edited and orchestrated some fragments which, together with material edited by Lyadov, Karatygin, and Rimsky-Korsakov (i.e., the Night on Bald Mountain music) constituted a staged "premiere" of sorts, performed at the Moscow Free Theatre on 8 October 1913 (Old Style), with spoken dialogue inserted for scenes without music by Mussorgsky.
In commemoration of his late comrade from The Five, César Cui became the first to create a complete version of The Fair at Sorochyntsi during 1914-1916. This fully sung version – but without the Night on Bald Mountain sequence – was staged on 13 October 1917 (Old Style) at the Theatre of Musical Drama in Petrograd. The foreword to Cui's edition, dated October 1916, explains the state of affairs at the time, and translates thus:
The comic opera Sorochyntsi Fair was begun by Mussorgsky in 1875 [sic], was composed slowly and in fragments, and after the composer's death in 1881 remained unfinished. Originally only five excerpts were published: the Introduction to the opera (adapted according to the preliminary draft by A.K. Lyadov), the Lad's Dumka (ed. by Lyadov), the Gopak, the Scene of Khivrya expecting Afanasiy Ivanovich, and Parasya's Dumka (the orchestral edition of all five numbers belongs to Lyadov). Mussorgsky's manuscripts nevertheless still afforded a substantial quantity of musical material, namely, the "scene of the fair" which begins the opera and the first half of the second act. This material was adapted by V.G. Karatygin, supplemented and orchestrated by C.A. Cui. Nevertheless the remainder, in particular the scene of Cherevik and Khivrya and the scene of the Lad and the Gypsy in Act 1, 2nd half, and all of the third [act], with the exception of Parasya's Dumka and the Gopak, is added and orchestrated by C.A. Cui, and consequently Mussorgsky's posthumous labor is completed.
However, Cui's version failed to find a permanent place in the repertory, and the opera was completed and orchestrated again by Nikolai Tcherepnin in 1923 and by Vissarion Shebalin in 1930. Shebalin's version became the standard since then. This also includes the Night on Bald Mountain as a prelude to the third act, instead of an interlude in act one (following Gritsko's Dumka), as Mussorgsky originally planned.