I would never think of recommending a disc of music I didn’t much care for just because it sounded good, but in the case of The Bolshoi Experience, I admit I didn’t care for much of the content, yet the sound was so good, it was hard to resist.
The album contains selections from Glinka’s A Life for the Czar; Alexander Dargomyszki’s Russalka; Tchaikovsky’s Lolanthe, Queen of Spades, and Mazeppa; Rachmaninov’s Aleko; and Borodin’s Prince Igor. While the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra perform the pieces well, of course, with robust and spirited renditions by the Bolshoi singers and musicians, the arias and such themselves tend to be a little offbeat and even downbeat, with the exception of the familiar Prince Igor Polovtsian Dances that conclude the program. I’d say it’s a collection for the opera connoisseur rather than the casual listener like myself.
Ah, but the sound is splendid. The 2005 hybrid SACD release delivers regular two-channel stereo, SACD two-channel, and SACD five-channel sound. I confess I couldn’t hear much difference between the regular stereo and SACD two-channel stereo layers, to which I listened, although there did appear to be what may have been a touch more dynamic impact in the SACD version. However, that aside, the recording in both formats is splendid.
Not only is the audio balance nigh-well perfect, the imaging and dimensionality are quite convincing. We get genuine depth in this recording, with the orchestra slightly in front of the soloists, and the soloists slightly in front of the chorus. I hope I don’t sound too clichéd in saying you’ll feel as though you’re in the concert hall listening to this one. Moreover, I’m sure the five-channel version, which I did not hear, would give a listener an even greater sense of reality with a little surround ambience. So, nice sound, even if I found the music a bit tiring.
To hear a brief excerpt from this album, click here: