The Good: Mussorgsky is amazingly visual, grand. Excellent instrumentals, passionate
The Bad: Lack of duration
The Basics: A more than competent recording of Mussorgsky's finest works, Pictures At An Exhibition is well worth a listen and a purchase!
There's something reassuring about a Classical artist who does exactly what every old person says is great about Classical music. That is, if you ask anyone, say eighty or over what's so great about Classical music, they'll tell you it engages the imagination and that appeals to them because so much music tells you what it is, it doesn't require anything. They'll say the music video generation killed the era of great lyrics and quality music that evokes images.
Mussorgsky is the ideal composer for the old folks to cite to win that argument. He created Pictures At An Exhibition to commemorate his appreciation of Victor Hartmann's works. At least, that's what the liner notes to this c.d. says. I'm inclined to believe them. The entire piece of Pictures At An Exhibition is a visual one. It evokes the imagination of images and emotions. It works reflexively: Mussorgsky wrote the music viewing Hartmann's works which then evoke new imaginings of those of us who listen to Mussorgsky's work.
I bought this album because it was one of the few that actually had a track listing of the individual movements in Pictures At An Exhibition. I like that, because it confirmed for me what I wanted to be sure I was getting: "The Great Gate of Kiev." "The Great Gate of Kiev" is simply one of the most magnificent pieces of music ever created. I mean it. Listening to the song is to understand grandeur. Mussorgsky is the most musically articulate individual I've yet encountered for the notion of big (which Oasis does wonderfully), powerful AND grand. He is a composer of some vocabulary. "The Great Gate Of Kiev" is his crowning achievement in that.
I was a little skeptical of this recording when it began. I had heard the amazing Tomita version and every other version of "The Great Gate Of Kiev" was done fully with bells. Yup, it translates perfectly, majestically to a bell orchestra. Here in the full orchestra, it is flawlessly realized. In fact, the full piece, from the opening Promenade through the climax of this piece I keep going on about, the full orchestra enhances Mussorgsky's works. My final note on "The Great Gate Of Kiev;" it is the music of epiphany, profound understanding and I use this forum to thank Mussorgsky for creating it.
In addition to the wonderful Pictures At An Exhibition (which is diverse, though most of the pieces are stirring, rousing, and somewhat daunting), the c.d. has Mussorgsky's Night On Bald Mountain. You might recall this latter work from Fantasia. It's in there, I believe at the end. It's an inconsistent piece, moving from rather thunderous chords to slower interludes. It still evokes the imagination well, but not with the same excellence as the first piece.
Outside that, my only real issue with the disc is the length. It's 44 minutes. I, in case you haven't read many of my reviews, take issue with not using the medium well. C.d.s can hold 74 - 80 minutes worth of information now. Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, I'm sure, did more than two Mussorgsky pieces in their tenure together. They ought to have included more on this disc; they clearly have the ability.
Best track is "The Great Gate Of Kiev," which ranks as a perfect track, the weakest link is "The Ballet Of The Unhatched Chicks."
For other Classical music reviews, please check out my takes on:
Greatest Hits - Chopin
String Quartets - Op. 18 - Beethoven
The Red Violin Soundtrack
For other music reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.