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Mussorgsky: Pictures At An Exhibition / Jansons, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Mussorgsky / Cgb / Jansons
Release Date: 01/12/2010 
Label:  Rco Live   Catalog #: 9004   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Modest MussorgskyRecorded Sound
Conductor:  Mariss Jansons
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 0 Hours 33 Mins. 

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SuperAudio CD:  $21.49
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


MUSSORGSKY-RAVEL Pictures at an Exhibition Mariss Jansons, cond; Royal Concertgebouw O RCO LIVE 09004 (SACD: 33:02) Live: Amsterdam 5/22-23/2008

Does the world really need another Pictures? Hardly, but it can always Read more make room for one if this kind of quality and individuality are on offer.

This Pictures is notable for the way it sings, with a darkly glittering translucence no matter what the dynamic level (even the fff climax in “Bydlo”). The orchestral sound is characterized by rounded edges to the most massive ff —an absence of “click” to the attack reminiscent of Karajan (one of Jansons’s mentors, of course, whose own most characterful, if not tidiest, Pictures is perhaps to be found in the 1955–56 Philharmonia version for EMI) and Celibidache (Stuttgart Radio, 1976/DG, not the glacial Munich version on EMI). There is a silken beauty of articulation, even in the most traditionally brittle passages (e.g., “Hut on Fowl’s Legs”), and a liquid transparency at the loudest volume (“Great Gate of Kiev”). Indeed, one has the impression that Jansons could take his ff, call it p and crescendo again from that starting point. While some listeners may miss the bite of more traditional conceptions (where’s the feroce in “Hut on Fowl’s Legs”?), there is ample compensation in the distinctively Russian character of Jansons’s sculpted legato treatment—but as an operatic cantabile rather than the sharply picaresque quality of (say) Markevitch (BPO, 1953/DG). Throughout, he molds that distinctive Concertgebouw sound—both nasal and velvety—to this purpose to great effect: in the songfully inflected “Promenades,” individually characterized with unusual thoughtfulness and inflectional nuance; or in “The Old Castle,” where volatile dynamic shadings are reinforced by some spontaneous-sounding accelerandi—an unusually dramatic treatment, for all the ultra-refinement of execution. The scherzando portions of the score—“Tuileries” in particular—are similarly played with greater rhythmic flexibility than usual. I don’t have Jansons’s previous recording (Oslo PO, EMI) for comparison, but the Norwegian orchestra was never in this league.

Some departures from Ravel’s orchestration will raise eyebrows: in “Goldenberg and Schmuyle,” extra octave doublings in the bass, and added percussion; added percussion in “Catacombs” too (evidently a Russian tradition—Golovanov makes the same additions in his 1947 Moscow Radio recording, CD on Lys). “Gnomus” features a peculiar rhythmic alteration, lengthening the first note of the short-long pattern in the woodwind motive; and in the middle section of “Hut on Fowl’s Legs” (Andante mosso), the flutes play rapid tremolo thirds in place of the usual measured sextuplets.

The recording is taken from concerts three months apart, the audience never in evidence until their applause at the end. As often, SACD (stereo) removes a slight edge to the CD layer, and opens up more sense of the hall’s space (I can’t comment on surround sound as I don’t have that capability). One obvious reservation concerns the disc’s short measure, but it seems to be offered at half the label’s usual price. Well worth your viewing, no matter how many Pictures already adorn your listening-room walls.

FANFARE: Boyd Pomeroy
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Works on This Recording

Pictures at an Exhibition for Orchestra (orchestrated by Ravel) by Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  Mariss Jansons
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1874/1922; Russia 
Venue:  Concertgebouw Amsterdam 
Length: 30 Minutes 14 Secs. 

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