Tag Archives: Mussorgsky

CLASSICAL SOURCE. MUSSORGSKY

CLASSICALSOURCE—MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition—piano version, orchestral version (orch Ravel)

Oleg Marshev pf Odense Symphony Orchestra / Jan Wagner Danacord DACOCD656 (70′.DDD)

Although this release is not the first to juxtapose Pictures at an Exhibition in Mussorgsky’s original version for piano with Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of it (Ashkenazy/Mehta, on Decca, and Brendel/Previn, on Philips, spring immediately to mind), it is instructive to have two versions of this popular work side-by-side and, in particular, an opportunity to savour how the composer himself wrote the piece (there are so many transcriptions of it that there is a danger of losing sight of Mussorgsky’s intentions!) Oleg Marshev gives a particularly illuminating account of Mussorgsky’s original (beautifully recorded, too, in its presence, clarity and balance). Marshev’s approach to the linking ‘Promenades’ is particularly thoughtful and varied, and his characterisation of the canvases themselves is descriptive enough without losing the line of the work as a whole. It’s an impressive performance, overall, avoiding extremes, quite symphonic yet not denuding the pictorial elements and played with plenty of feeling; a strong candidate as a ‘library choice’.

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CLASSIC FM. MUSSORGSKY

CLASSIC FM—MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition—piano version, orchestral version (orch Ravel)

Oleg Marshev pf Odense SO/ Jan Wagner Danacord DACOCD656 (70′.DDD)

The enterprising Danacord label has come up with the novel (though not unique) idea of coupling the original piano version of Mussorgsky’s masterpiece (1874) with Ravel orchestration (1922). Oleg Marshev is on top form with a well-paced, deftly characterised account with startling bursts of virtuosity that can hold its own with the best in a competitive field. By comparison, Wagner and his Odense players are merely staid and workmanlike. Some sluggish tempos (“Tuileries”, “Limoges” and the finale) and unimaginative takes on “Bydlo” and “Ballet of the Chicks” do not illuminate the full potential of this wonderful score. Both performances are vividly recorded.

GRAMOPHONE. MUSSORGSKY

GRAMOPHONE—MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition—piano version, orchestral version (orch Ravel)

Oleg Marshev pf Odense Symphony Orchestra / Jan Wagner Danacord DACOCD656 (70′.DDD)

A fascinating opportunity to compare the piano and orchestral Pictures

Coupling Mussorgsky’s original piano version of Pictures at an Exhibition with Ravel’s celebrated orchestral transcription makes for fascinating listening. This is largely because the ferocity of much of Mussorgsky’s piano-writing is tempered by Ravel with a dazzling but typically Gallic elegance. And this makes it no exaggeration to claim that a single instrument comes to exceed the impact of full orchestra.

Such ironic grandeur is made abundantly clear by Oleg arshev, whose all-Russian mastery takes nothing for granted providing, even in a crowded marketplace, one of the finest Pictures on record. From him every “Promenade”, whether triumphant or introspective, is a refreshing break from th dazzling and awe-inspiring pictures on view. His “Il vecchio castelllo” is alive with incidental but never surplus detail, his “Bydlo” a pulverizing, uncompromising vision. His trills in the trio of the “Ballet des poussins dans leur coques” are delicate and luminous, and his virtuosity in “Limoges” and in the final magisterial pages gloriously uplifting.

All of which makes Jan Wagner and the Odense Symphony Orchestra a less thrilling experience, particularly in the lack of the composer’s prescribed vivo in the “Ballet des poussins” or in the tame view of the con brio and force indications above Baba Yaga’s infernal flight. Elsewhere the playing is warmly affectionate even when it contributes to a view (shared by Vladimir Ashkenazy) that Ravel’s orchestration is Mussorgsky gentrified with too many rough places made plain. Danacord’s sound, while less vivid than from some, is fine and there are excellent accompanying notes by Malcolm MacDonald.

Bryce Morrison

MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition