Review by threerandot July 6, 2007 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
|The title of this disc indicates that these are "Russian Showpieces" and Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform these works with that approach in mind.
The disc opens with the famous "Pictures at an exhibition". It begins with a straight-forward promenade and then the Gnomus only increasing the tension slightly. French horns and winds mark the second promenade and carry us into the Il vecchio costello, a highlight with a warm alto sax solo. The third promenade features big brass and winds. Tuileries picks up the energy more with fast winds, big brass, supple strings and chimes. Bydlo is a highlight in this performance with an impressive tenor tuba solo that comes right into your living room. Basses are caught nicely. I wish the snare drum was further back in the mix, however. The next Promenade paints a darker mood, leading right into the jocular Ballet of the Chicks in their shells with excellent playing from all sections. Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle features brash strings and excellent trumpet work. The Marketplace is painted with frantic strings, horns and percussion and the Catacombs features the most impressive brass playing up to this point. But Reiner seems to be holding the reigns in, even at this late point in the music. Con mortuis features more restraint, but things get going in Hut on Fowl's Legs. The Great Gate features brass playing more in the style of a march band, than perhaps a Bach Chorale. Still, this leads to an exciting climax. Although Reiner and the CSO are an excellent team, they do not stop to capture the more colorful sounds that are embedded throughout this music. Reiner seems more interested in pushing ahead to the climaxes. The closing moments are memorable, however.
Tchiakovsky's March Miniature is a playful little piece with plenty of charming playing and is an easy winner on this disc. The sound is only in two-channel on this disc, as this was the way it was originally recorded.
Borodin's Polovtsian March is another piece with plenty of bombast and excitement and Reiner seems more at home with this work.
The Marche Slave by Tchaikovsky is definitely a highlight. Reiner doesn't seem so rushed and captures the lively Russian feeling. Sound seems a little warmer here than elsewhere on the disc as well.
The Colas Breugnon, Op.24 Overture by Kabalevsky is no less impressive than the Marche Slave and features some of the more colorful playing and sound throughout this disc. Plenty of bombast as well.
The disc closes with Glinka's Russlan and Ludmilla Overture in what is really a fun piece to close this disc. This is a lively and fun performance that is sure to please. Again, much warmer sound in the last few items of this disc.
The Pictures At an Exhibition on this disc is obviously the main selling point and I wish that the sound quality was a little better at capturing the more subtle nuances. Reiner seems to play up a more militant view of the score and doesn't linger anywhere in the score for long. Personally, I prefer Karajan's digital recording on DG. Still, with its faults, there is much to enjoy in Reiner's performance, even if I feel it doesn't merit top marks. I seem to enjoy Reiner playing the remaining works a little more than his approach to the pictures. The remaining works are all sparking performances for the most part that make enjoyable fill-ups. Recommended with reservations.
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