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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?

Copyright © 23 October 2005 George Balcombe, London UK


Mussorgsky - Respighi

2564 61954-2 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 58'22" 2005 BBC/Warner Classics

BBC National Orchestra of Wales (Respighi); Tadaaki Otaka, conductor (Respighi); BBC Symphony Chorus (Mussorgsky/Gamley - Great Gate of Kiev); BBC Symphony Orchestra (Mussorgsky); Leonard Slatkin, conductor (Mussorgsky)

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936): Pini di Roma (1924); Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) orchestrated by Byrwec Ellison, Sergey Gorchakov, Walter Goehr, Emile Naoumoff, Geert van Keulen, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Carl Simpson, Lucien Cailliet, Henry Wood, Lawrence Leonard, Leo Funtek, John Boyd, Maurice Ravel, Leopold Stokowski and Douglas Gamley: Pictures at an Exhibition (1874)




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