Site review by Polly Nomial March 2, 2006
Performance: Sonics (S/MC): /
|This is one a pair of good, if not exceptional, Mussorgsky discs from Naxos, together with Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky (Stokowski Transcriptions) - Serebrier (which could justifiably be thought of as more Stokowski than Mussorgsky!) which reveal many ways to approach this marvellous music in both recording terms and interpretation.
This disc opens with the Night on the Bare Mountain (Rimsky-Korsakov version) and is treated to a very fine performance; plenty of fire in the main body of the work before a wonderfully relaxing coda. After a couple of small fillers (of which more later) we are treated to the Mussorgsky's own orchestration and one immediately realises how much more violent a conception was toned down by Rimsky-Korsakov. In the "transcription", the playing for most part attempts to capture the violence of the original until the coda which points up the oddity of the "serene" coda - in this respect, Kuchar might have obtained a more cohesive interpretation of the Rimsky-Korsakov version had he not attempted such a contrasted reading. It is in this track only that there is a little suspect intonation from the brass (in the coda) which is a real pity, as it is the orchestras only blemish. In the original version, the savageness and magic of conception is very vividly conjured up with highly exciting playing - the more I hear this version, the more I prefer it to the Rimsky-Korsakov arrangement but I would hate never to hear the flute solo at the ending!
In between these highly different works(!), we are given the delightful Hopak from Soronchintsy Fair and then the entirely troubling Golotsïn's Exile from Khovanshchina. Both are played with style and make for a very contrasting make weights in between the two Night on the Bare Mountain's. Sadly the notes for both these pieces are very coy about the orchestrations used - I suspect that they are by Lyapunov and Shostakovich but I could very well be mistaken; if so, please let me know!
After that we are treated (and it is a treat in this performance) to Ravel's majestic and sublime orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition. All the pictures in question are brought to life with a great deal of character whilst the Promenade-theme successfully unites the work into a satisfying whole. At no time is the Ukrainian orchestra wanting for colour or sophistication and the brass and woodwind have a very pleasing Soviet sound whilst retaining a modern standard of ensemble. They and Kuchar sound as though they are really having fun, despite the countless number of times they must have performed this work. From recent recordings, this is the most enjoyable Pictures I have heard.
The sound is quite dry but sufficiently detailed for all the orchestrations many subtleties to register. Not a Pentatone or Channel Classics top flight recording by any means but a very enjoyable experience from every perspective. The MCH layer is very well done, with the rears allowing a little more separation of contributions but remaining almost completely imperceptible until switching back to stereo (just how I like it) although the dryness remains.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and SA-CD.net
Review by firstname.lastname@example.org June 19, 2004 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Pictures at an Exhibition, (orch. Ravel)
Night on Bald Mountain, original and Rimsky's
Golitsin's Exile from Khovanchina
Hopak from Sorochinsky Fair
Naxos SACD $11.99 USD
(did you notice? $11.99?)
Wow. I didn't think I could get excited while listening to Pics at an Ex
ever again, but the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine turns in a
vivid performance. From the deliciously unhomogenized oboe, to the earthy
but warm strings, to the overly-earnest percussion section...it was a
delight all the way through. (Don't tell anyone, but usually I move ahead
to the Hut and Gate.
One of the many striking moments was how splashy Ravel's writing for bells,
gong and cymbals sounds in the last quiet run before the final statement of
the Great Gate theme; it was an unusually colorful, intense and exciting
build up. The heaving string
writing in Bydlo comes off particulary sad and burdensome, as the cart
lumbers along. Lighter moments for winds are vividly characterized.
Had enough of Night on Bald Mountain? You get two versions here: Rimsky's
correction, and Mussy's original. I like both, though my favorite
alternative being the one with chorus, as it sounds the most errie of all.
(Abbado/Sony, I believe.) Kuchar and the Ukraine make them sound freshly-minted.
If you think you had no romance left for this music, it got me goin' again.
Once again the SACD recording, (I opted for the 2-channel layer),
intoxicates the ear in a way that PCM never did for me, though I never would
have known when PCM was all there was. "Relaxed" is the best way I could
decribe the sound, for what it's worth. While I've read that Naxos' recordings with the Russian National Orchestra have been hit and miss, this one's up there with the best of them: vivid, warm, huge soundstage and just the right amount of reverberance. I look forward to hearing this in multi-channel.
Was this review helpful to you?