Monday, September 22, 2008

CD REVIEW: Mussorgsky Pictures at an exhibition

September 22, 2008

MODESTE MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel);
Night on Bald Mountain & Prelude to Khovanschina (both arr. Rimsky-Korsakov)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Paavo Järvi
Telarc- 60705(SACD)Reference Recording - Pictures: Ormandy (Sony)
Telarc has had very good luck with Pictures at an Exhibition, starting with its celebrated Maazel/Cleveland recording--a seminal event heralding the digital recording age, and still a prime recommendation. This release exactly duplicates the label's previous, also very fine version from Levi/Atlanta. Paavo Järvi's performances offer little or nothing to criticize and much to praise. He turns up the voltage in the second-half reprise of Night on Bald Mountain's opening material in genuinely exciting fashion. Pictures opens with a warm, legato, and very Russian-sounding "Promenade" and builds steadily. Tuileries and the Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells have lots of charm; Bydlo and Catacombs feature plenty of weight; Baba-Yaga and The Great Gate of Kiev are simply spectacular, with lots of splashy emphasis from tam-tam and bells at the end.
The obvious reason for recording this repertoire all over again is to release the music in SACD surround sound, and in this respect I have to say that this disc is a big winner. Rock-solid bass, brilliant but never shrill treble, excellent internal balances, and an incredibly natural multichannel acoustic make this the obvious choice if you want to hear these pieces in surround sound. Happily, the relatively high-level engineering sounds excellent even on less expensive systems, though on high-end equipment you'll have your neighbors begging for mercy (or coming over to wallow in the spectacle). In sum--a very enjoyable production, on both musical and sonic grounds.
--David Hurwitz

1 comment:

Naimah said...