MODEST MUSSORGSKY - PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION - LEONARD SLATKIN (Conductor) - PENG PENG (Piano) - NASHVILLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA -
NASHVILLE SYMPHONY CHORUS - 0747313071678 - NAXOS 8.570716
There are at least 30 or so different orchestrations in existence of Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky. Some of them famous, like the often used Ravel version, Rimsky-Korsakov and Stokowski, and others not so well known and neglected. This new recording presents to us an exclusive compilation by Leonard Slatkin, of his favorite orchestrations for each and every different section of the work. A very effective way of shining a new and varied light on the mood and character of each individual picture. Even the Promenade sections, the mood of each altered by the impressions of the previous painting, are more effective when treated by different composers.
Highlights on this recording of some of the best orchestrations, are The Old Castle, by Emile Naoumoff, with a clever and very effective addition of a piano. Vladimir Ashkenazy's orchestration of Bydlo, with its darker brass and heavier percussion. The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks by Lucien Cailliet, with its clever use of varied winds to create the sound of multiple birds. The scarier Hut on Fowl's Legs, due to the treatment by Leopold Stokowski. And, of course, the impressive orchestration of The Bogatyr (Heroes) Gate of Kiev, by Douglas Gamley, primarely a composer of film scores. Its use of a pipe organ and an ancient sounding Russian choir, creates the impression that the Gates were erected before the Middle Ages, and would stand the test of time far into the future, as a monument to the Russian spirit.
Whenever Slatkin performs this work in concert, these are his orchestrations of choice, and it shows in this "live" recording that he enjoys showing off these different, if sometimes "odd" transcriptions. The Nashville Symphony players are in top shape, and are certainly put to the test here with all the various and unusual instruments involved in this recording. The Naxos recording is up to the challenge of capturing all the sounds generated in this fine performance.
If you enjoy this great masterpiece, but would like to hear it as filtered through someone else's mind, this recording will reinforce your love of this work. After all, having been re-orchestrated and re-arranged by so many different people, including the progressive rock band, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, proves the fascination this piece of music has exerted on musicians throughout time, and that great works like this will, in fact, live forever.