With scintillating virtuosity in Pictures and Abbado bringing out the Russian color in the gloriously sung choral works, there is nothing routine about anything here.
Abbado has recorded all this music before: Pictures for DG (3/89) and the rest for RCA with the LSO Chorus in 1981 (6/93). The latter was a very good record, and remains thoroughly worthwhile at mid price, but the new live DG recording is even more spectacular, especially in St John's Night on the Bare Mountain, the original version of Night on the Bare Mountain. Arthur Jacobs, who here provides the illuminating notes, suggests that the American word 'bald' is more faithful to the Russian than our term, 'bare'. Here it certainly brings vividly graphicRead more orchestral playing. Abbado obviously relishes the odd grotesque spurts of colour from the woodwind, and the Mussorgskian ruggedness. The composer's structural clumsiness is not shirked and the lack of the smooth continuity found in the Rimsky arrangement does not impede the sense of forward momentum; indeed at the close the Russian dance element is emphasized, rather than the sinister pictorialism. (Of course the luscious slow ending is not here at all--that was added by Rimsky.)
The choral pieces are gloriously sung and again Abbado brings out their Russian colour, especially in the glowing yet sinuous "Chorus of priestesses". Joshua is made to seem a minor masterpiece with its lusty opening (hints of Borodin's Polovtsians) and its touching central solo ("The amorite women weep"). This is most eloquently sung by Elena Zaremba and the theme is then movingly taken up first by the women of the chorus and then the men, before the exultant music returns. The performance of Pictures at an Exhibition, like the choral items, gains from the spacious ambience and sumptuous overall textures. It is not, perhaps, an electrifying performance, but it is dramatic in its contrasts and very beautifully played. The refinement and colour of the evocation, so characteristic of Abbado, is most touching in "The old castle", while "Tuileries" is gently evoked with a flexibly fluid control of tempo. "Bydlo" opens and closes mournfully, yet reaches a strong, positive immediacy as it finally comes close. The chicks dance with dainty lightness; then the hugely weighty lower orchestral tutti and bleating trumpet response of "Samuel Goldenberg" demonstrate the extraordinary range of tone this great orchestra can command.
After the scintillating virtuosity of "Market Place at Limoges" the sonorous Berlin brass makes a tremendous impact in "Catacombe" and Abbado's tonal and dynamic graduations are characteristically astute; then 'following a ferociously rhythmic "Baba-jaga" he steadily builds his three-dimensional "Great Gate at Kiev", losing none of the grandeur of the gentle contrasts of the intoned chorale, with the tam-tam splashes at the end satisfyingly finalizing the effect. A most enjoyable concert: there is nothing routine about anything here.
Joshuaby Modest Mussorgsky Performer:
Elena Zaremba (Mezzo Soprano)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,
Prague Philharmonic Chorus
Period: Romantic Written: 1863-1866; Russia
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Great albumNovember 21, 2012By Sharon Kazel (Evergreen, CO)See All My Reviews"This Deutsche Grammophon album was recommended by ArkivMusic when I was looking for a good recording of Pictures at an Exhibition. Thanks, I agree completely. There were only 138 albums to choose from. I do wish Arkiv had a compare tool to help me choose. Sharon"Report Abuse