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Boris Godounov: Extract

Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov

In Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, a Tsar is crowned; but it is a guilty Tsar who has caused the death of the boy who should by rights have ascended the throne. The Coronation Scene comes near the start of the opera. A crowd has been ordered to cry out for Boris to be crowned, which without many doubts they duly do; and Boris steps forward to accept. Amid the clamour of the Kremlin bells and the shouts of the excited populace, he is saluted with cries of "Slava!" (Hail). This is one of the grandest celebratory scenes in all Russian opera, given its particular tinge by the knowledge that Boris, though a dominating character and a natural ruler, is prey to the guilt that will soon destroy him. The opera is Russia’s greatest, and continues to haunt the country’s imagination. Rimsky-Korsakov made a famous version, intended to help the work’s career in the West, and later Shostakovich too made a version intended, he said, to rewrite it "on another plane." This is the orchestration here used.


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