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Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures At An Exhibition, Etc / Conlon


Release Date: 04/18/2008 
Label:  Erato   Catalog #: 45596   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  James Conlon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 52 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Pictures at an Exhibition with a difference, plus the most beautiful performance of the glorious Khovanshchina Prelude I have ever heard.

James Conlon conducts a version of Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's score with a difference. He has joined the growing band of performers of original versions in an ingenious way. Ravel made his famous orchestral transcription in 1913 and at that time did not have access to the composer's own manuscript. Eventually Pavel Lamm edited all Mussorgsky's music, and these texts were made available in the West in 1922. Having studied the original piano score of the Pictures, Conlon tells us he ''elected to change some passages back to the original as I am convinced Ravel would have
Read more done, had he had access to the original text''. They are mostly minor alter- ations: a quaver becomes a crotchet on an important upbeat just before the final scalic flourish of ''Gnomus''; there are two effective extra bars in the coda of the ''Ballet of the unhatched chicks'', and in ''Baba-Yaga'' two extra bars (added by Ravel) have been removed. In ''The Great Gate of Kiev'' all the grace notes are played before the beat (as they are on the piano) and not on the beat as in Ravel's score. But the most striking change is one of dynamics. In ''Bydlo'' Ravel marks the opening pianissimo, and has the Polish ox-cart gradually approaching the listener from the distance. In the piano score the dynamic is ff throughout the introduction, which makes for a powerful opening but is a good deal less subtle. Conlon makes his point here, but only to prove that Ravel's change was much more effective. The performance itself is a fine one, with the excellent Rotterdam orchestra playing with both warmth and finesse and considerable character. They are somewhat impeded by the resonant acoustics of De Doelen Concert Hall, which tends to blur the articulation in ''Gnomus'' and ''Baba-Yaga'' although there is a pleasing ambient warmth for ''The old castle'', which is very graceful and serene. At the close, Conlon's pacing of the chorale of ''The Great Gate of Kiev'' has stirring breadth and dignity.

Where Conlon scores is in the coupling. His own comment is pertinent: ''I have elected to perform three excerpts from Khovanshchina in the orchestration of Shostakovich because of the absolute adherence to the original musical text. In their only other version (Rimsky-Korsakov), they have been considerably reworked musically in a manner that, although highly effective for the end of the nineteenth century, is no longer justifiable in our time.'' The result is the most beautiful performance of the glorious Khovanshchina Prelude I have ever heard, with extremely refined woodwind solos. It is good to discover that those magical arpeggios with woodwind halos in the coda are Mussorgsky's own inspiration. Here the Rotterdam acoustic is ideal, increasing the allure of the strings (the playing is very sensitive) in the ''Persian Dance'' which follows, while the ambient atmosphere adds poignancy to the following number depicting Prince Galitsin's departure into exile.

-- Ivan March, Gramophone [8/1991]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Pictures at an Exhibition for Orchestra (orchestrated by Ravel) by Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  James Conlon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1874/1922; Russia 
2.
Khovanshchina: Act 1 Prelude "Dawn on the Moscow River" by Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  James Conlon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872-1880; Russia 
Notes: Orchestrated: Dmitri Shostakovich (1959) 
3.
Khovanshchina: Dance of the Persian Slaves by Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  James Conlon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872-1880; Russia 
Notes: Orchestrated: Dmitri Shostakovich (1959) 
4.
Khovanshchina: Galitsyn's Journey by Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  James Conlon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872-1880; Russia 
Notes: Orchestrated: Dmitri Shostakovich (1959) 

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