Modeste MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (arr. Lawrence Leonard)
Two Interludes from Khovantschina
Gopak from Sorochinsky Fair (orch. Liadov)
Pictures from Crimea (orch. Walter Goehr)
Scherzo in B flat (orch. Rimsky-Korsakov)
A Tear-Drop (orch. Hans Kindler)
Night on the Bald Mountain (orch. Rimsky-Korsakov)
Tamas Ungar (piano)
Philharmonia Orchestra - Geoffrey Simon
Recorded London, 1986 (Night on the Bald Mountain) and 1992
CALA CACD 1030
Yet another Pictures at an Exhibition, I hear you say! Well, yes,
but this is a somewhat different affair for here is (the late) Lawrence Leonard's
rarely heard arrangement for piano and orchestra made in 1977. As a whole
it is a quite satisfying compromise preserving most of the piano original
(the opening Promenade, less spectacular than Ravel's, is for orchestra
alone). In most other movements the original material is shared by piano
and orchestra in a "concerto-like" manner. It would be idle to list all the
differences between Lawrence's arrangement and, say, Ravel's (which is by
far the most popular). However some may be singled out. For example The
Old Castle dispenses with Ravel's saxophone and opts for cello and piano
with soft sustaining harmonies including a suggestion of wind (wind machine
or soft roll on suspended cymbals, we are not told) or Goldenberg and
Schmuyle, Goldenberg being given a ponderous, pompous orchestral garment
and the piano original kept for the wailing Schmuyle (quite effective indeed).
Some movements may sound less impressive than in Ravel's version, e.g.
Bydlo, The Catacombs or even The Great Gate of Kiev;
but all in all Lawrence's arrangement is well worth having for a change from
Ravel's ubiquitous version.
It has always been a cause of regret to me that Mussorgsky did not write
more for orchestra for his intuitive genius would have worked wonders as,
say, the original version of Boris shows. Most other pieces here have
been orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov and Stokowski whose orchestration
of Galitsin's Journey (Entr'acte to Act IV of Khovantschina)
is quite sober and really very fine.
I did not know Walter Goehr's orchestration of Pictures from Crimea,
i.e. two piano pieces written after Mussorgsky's trip to Crimea framing an
earlier piano Reverie used by Goehr for contrast's sake. Again quite successful
and well worth having too.
The Dutch musician, Hans Kindler, who incidentally became first cellist of
the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski and later founder and conductor
of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington D.C., orchestrated one of
Mussorgsky's piano pieces, Une Larme written in 1880. He recorded
it in 1941 as Song of Russia and published it later as Chanson Russe.
Quite ably done, though a trifle.
The last item here is Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestration of Night on the
Bald Mountain quite brilliantly played, as the rest of this collection,
by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Geoffrey Simon, though I could not help
feeling that Mussorgsky's original version might have been a better choice,
just to hear his own voice for once.
All in all, a fine release of fairly well-known and loved pieces with, as
a bonus, an unusual, though well worth having arrangement of Pictures
at an Exhibition.