<< -- 3 -- George Balcombe AESTHETIC AND DIDACTIC
This 2004 Prom performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition
was conceived by the former chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra,
Leonard Slatkin. He said, 'I know of about 30 orchestrators who have tackled
Pictures -- and that does not include the rock, guitar, electronic or
accordion versions that exist.' So he thought it would be 'fun' to give each
of the sixteen items played here a different orchestrator, plus Ravel as an
extra bolt-on for one of them.
The resultant impression is not so much that of pictures at an exhibition,
as of pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Sadly, the pieces do not fit together,
since each comes from an entirely different puzzle.
Mussorgsky's grand finale is his architect friend Hartmann's design for
The Great Gate of Kiev. A squat tower stands next to the great gate.
Bells can be clearly seen hanging in the tower. A mere three of them
[listen -- track 19, 5:22-7:10].
But, as presented here, The Great Gate
is an eardrum-shattering affair complete with the Royal Albert Hall's mighty
organ and men of the BBC Symphony Chorus. The listener might think the sonic assault
would bring the recently refurbished organ and hall crashing to the ground.
They both survived. But will this 'fun' version of the Pictures?