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Pictures Reframed - Mussorgsky, Schumann / Leif Ove Andsnes

Release Date: 11/03/2009 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 98360   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Modest MussorgskyRobert Schumann
Performer:  Leif Ove Andsnes
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available in a deluxe edition with a DVD and book

Leif Ove Andsnes embarks on a major project which marks a new departure for the internationally acclaimed pianist and exclusive EMI Classics artist. Together with South African-born visual artist Robin Rhode, they have created a special program entitled Pictures Reframed which centers on Mussorgsky’s epic piano cycle Pictures at an Exhibition combining music, video and still imagery. EMI Classics has released the project as a standard CD and as a Read more href="album.jsp?album_id=308532">Special Luxury Collector’s Edition with the CD, a DVD, and a book.

Taking inspiration from Mussorgsky’s work, Robin Rhode created the digital animation “Promenade” in 2008, which shaped his vision for this project. A variant of this original animation is one of the visual sequences for Pictures Reframed. With a fresh and constantly changing interplay between actor and drawing it fittingly sets the scene for the musical narrative.

The Special Luxury Collector's Edition of Pictures Reframed includes both a DVD and CD packaged together in an exhibition catalog-style hardback book with a wide selection of images from the creation and final performance version of Pictures Reframed.

“Leif Ove Andsnes plays Pictures at an Exhibition with a combination of dedication, virtuosity and understanding which few if any other living pianists bring to it, so – loving the piece as he obviously does – it was entirely understandable that he should wish to draw in a new audience with the complement of images. … Rather than focus on Victor Hartmann's original paintings, some of which no longer exist, Andsnes and Robin Rhode have created a completely fresh adaptation using animation and film, and much thought has clearly gone into the choice of images. This works well in the linking 'Promenades' with images of Rhode moving as it were from one picture to another; it also works well at climactic moments such as 'The Great Gate of Kiev', a grand piano is engulfed in torrents of water unleashed from a gigantic lock gate and in 'Bydlo' where the images are menacing black-and-white film of the old railway station in Johannesburg with its echoes of Auschwitz.” -- www.classicalsource.com


In the 2009/10 concert season Leif Ove Andsnes undertook an ambitious multi-media collaboration with video artist Robin Rhodes. A video screen and five panels surround the pianist as he plays an 80-minute program that includes the two works featured on this audio-only disc, both of which are inspired by imagery. In his booklet notes Andsnes freely admits his admiration for Vladimir Horowitz's "enhanced" piano edition of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and makes no bones about emending the composer's original text.

You hear this vis-à-vis the first Promenade's octave transpositions, the Gnome's added left-hand grace notes, double-note trills in the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks, and, in the Great Gate of Kiev, Horowitz's melodic recasting of the descending octaves, among other examples. However, Mussorgsky's expressive content and dynamic trajectory largely remains intact, without the reverse accents, tapered phrases, Chopin-esque lingerings, and cuts that Horowitz favored. Furthermore, Andsnes carefully considers tempo to ensure unity and cumulative momentum. The four short Mussorgsky pieces that follow Pictures rarely have been played better, especially the vehement toccata that depicts punishment from a childhood nurse.

Andsnes' eloquent, scrupulous, and heartfelt Schumann Kinderszenen more than holds its own in the face of the work's finest recorded versions. Von fremden Laendern und Menschen's voicing changes on the repeats never sound forced or contrived, while Glückes genug stands out for its leisurely gait and uncommon tonal heft in the bass--a comment that also applies to the last two movements. Am Kamin is somewhat sedate and overpedaled; a drier, more impetuous interpretation would better serve the music's quiet whimsy. Yet although I initially found Fast zu Ernst too slow and stark, Andsnes' subtle voice leading and legato control hit home after several hearings. EMI's richly textured and warmly ambient engineering does Andsnes' serious artistry and world-class pianism full justice.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Pictures at an Exhibition for Piano by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Leif Ove Andsnes (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Russia 
From Memories of Childhood by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Leif Ove Andsnes (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865; Russia 
Kinderszenen, Op. 15 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Leif Ove Andsnes (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Germany 

Featured Sound Samples

Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky): The Great Gate of Kiev
From Memories of Childhood (Mussorgsky): No 2: First Punishment - Nurse Shuts Me in a Dark Room

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