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CHAN 10264
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CHAN 10264
Opera - The Miserly Knight

Rachmaninoff: The Miserly Knight

The Classical Shop
release date: November 2004

Originally recorded in 2004


Russian State Symphony Orchestra

Valeri Polyansky

Andrei Baturkin

baritone - The Duke

Vitaly Efanov

bass - Servant

Mikhail Guzhov

bass - The Baron

Vsevolod Grivnov

tenor - Albert

Borislav Molchanov

tenor - The Jewish Moneylender


Grand Hall of Moscow Conservatory


Valeri Polyansky


Igor Veprintsev

Record Label




Total Time - 60:24
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Opera - The Miserly Knight



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The Miserly Knight, Op. 24

  An opera in three scenes  
  Libretto from the 'Little Tragedy' by Alexander Pushkin  
1 Prelude 7:43
2 Scene 1. In the Tower 17:33
  Albert: 'Whatever happens, I shall appear at the tournament'  
3 Scene 2. In the Cellar 22:56
  Baron: 'Like the young libertine awaiting a meeting with some wily harlot'  
4 Scene 3. At the Palace 12:12
  Albert: 'Believe me, Sire, I have long suffered the shame of bitter poverty'  
 Mikhail Guzhov bass - The Baron
 Vsevolod Grivnov tenor - Albert
 Andrei Baturkin baritone - The Duke
 Borislav Molchanov tenor - The Jewish Moneylender
 Vitaly Efanov bass - Servant
 Valeri Polyansky
  October 2003  
In May of this year we released the premiere recording, with Polyansky and the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, of A Feast in the Time of Plague – a one act opera by the least-known member of the ‘Mighty Handful’, César Cui. That opera was one of a group of works based on four short dramas by Pushkin, known collectively as The Little Tragedies. Another in the group is The Miserly Knight, a neglected work in Rachmaninov’s canon. It was performed this season at Glyndebourne and at the 2004 Proms, prompting new interest in this dark and atmospheric score.

An opera in three scenes, fitting neatly onto one disc.

Valeri Polyansky and his Russian forces are renowned for their interpretations of their native repertoire and their recordings of works by Rachmaninov are particularly highly acclaimed.

"For the libretto of The Miserly Knight Rachmaninov retained almost the full text of Pushkin’s blank verse drama. He also preserved the original three scenes, setting each as continuous recitative without conventional arias and ensembles, held together through a system of closely related leitmotivs. In the first scene of the opera we encounter a baron’s son, Albert, humiliated in the eyes of the court by his father’s miserliness. A count has ruined his helmet in a jousting match and he has no money to buy a new one. We learn that the reason for his eventual triumph on the field of combat was his fury at the damage inflicted on his helmet by the count’s lance. ‘Was heroism the cause of it?’ he asks. ‘No, it was miserliness… It isn’t difficult to catch the same disease under the same roof as my father.’

In the second scene the Baron descends to the cellars to add a handful of gold to his chests of treasures. The monologue that follows is possibly one of the most outstanding scenes in Rachmaninov’s entire operatic output. The gloomy atmosphere of the vault, illuminated by candles and the glint of gold, is finely captured in dark orchestral sounds. The Baron describes his wealth as a token of his indomitable power while Rachmaninov’s music portrays the tears and pain that his accumulation of treasures has caused. The Baron expresses fear that his spendthrift son will squander all his riches. In the final scene Albert begs a Duke to intervene with the Baron on his behalf. Albert retires to an adjacent room when his father, the Baron, appears, but overhears the Baron claiming that Albert is planning to murder him. Overcome with rage, he bursts in, calls his father a liar, and challenges him to a duel. To the Duke’s horror, the Baron accepts. The Duke banishes Albert from court, and the Baron, overwhelmed by shame and avarice, collapses and dies.

'It has long been available on disc, but this new one outshines predecessors in the sharpness of the orchestral playing and the quality of the singing… highly recommended.'
The Telegraph

Valeri Polyansky conducts an eloquent account of this odd, rather haunting work…
Gramophone on CHAN 10201 (Cui)

Valeri Polyansky is a doughty champion for Cuis music.
International Record Review on CHAN 10201 (Cui)

A highly accomplished reading of Rachmaninovs glorious Symphonic Dances …
Gramophone on CHAN 9759 (Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances)

…all are performed with an intensity, vitality and conviction…
Classic FM Magazine on CHAN 10104 (Rachmaninov: The Rock etc.)

Rachmaninov’s darkly brooding score holds one’s interest better than the story does. The lush prelude deserves a life of its own, and the slithery orchestral comments on the Baron’s money-fondling are effective and chilling. The vocal writing is fairly accomplished in that the characters are well differentiated. The Chandos performances is a fine one, nonetheless, and it comes with a Russian libretto (in Cyrillic characters) and translations.
American Record Guide

M Hastings

I Sturt