Saturday, October 25, 2008

CD REVIEW: Mousorgsky

October 22, 2008

Gourmet Mussorgsky
Mary Ellyn Hutton

Paavo Järvi: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Mussorgsky, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” “Night on Bald Mountain,” Prelude to “Khovanshchina.” Telarc.
This is one beautiful album.
If you’d like to hear all that Mussorgsky wrote in these three symphonic favorites (with help from his friends Rimsky-Korsakoff and Ravel), by all means get this latest CD by Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, their 14th for Telarc.
Everyone can take credit here: Järvi, the CSO and the Telarc engineers.
To begin with, the performances are splendid.
In "Pictures at an Exhibition," for example, never have the wee fowl in "Ballet of Chicks in Their Shells" chirped and twittered so eloquently. Nor, thanks to trumpeter Mark Ridenour’s virtuosic triple- tonguing, has Schmuyle in "Samuel Goldberg and Schmuyle" railed with such importunity.
The transparency of the sound allows details likely to be effaced in flashier, more surface-effect versions emerge with surprising clarity. Järvi, who was trained as a percussionist, lets no touch from the battery go to waste -- or for that matter, any note in the score. You can even hear the ratchet for once in the exciting buildup from "The Hut on Fowl's Legs" to "The Great Gate of Kiev."
There is personality galore. You can almost feel the dust in "Bydlo," portrait of a rumbling Polish ox cart, which features a stellar solo by tubist Peter Link. There is clash and clatter in " Limoges" ("The Market Place") and the scariest Baba Yaga in "Hut on Fowl's Legs" you will ever hear. As for the "Great Gate," Järvi deploys the percussion lavishy, tubular bell, crashing tam-tam and all. There are no cracks between the seams either -- neither within nor between frames -- and you are suddenly "there" as the "Great Gate" appears following the exhilarating run-up from the "Hut on Fowl's Legs."
First cut on the disc, "Night on Bald Mountain" is also vividly and skillfully played, again with close attention to percussion and soulful solos by clarinetist Richard Hawley and flutist Randolph Bowman.
The Prelude to "Khovanshchina" dawns with an exquisitely sweet solo by oboist Dwight Parry. Hawley's ever-characterful clarinet adds charm, while Järvi and his players infuse the entire tone painting with Russian color.
Note: In the spirit of the upcoming witching season (Halloween), Järvi, the CSO and Telarc have made a free download of "Night on Bald Mountain" available on iTunes. Here's the link:
I'd have made "The Hut on Fowl's Legs" a bonus.

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