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Modest Petrovich MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (original piano version - 1874) [33:34] (orchestrations compiled by Leonard Slatkin):-
1) Promenade (D. Wilson Ochoa (b.1964)) [1:31]
2) Gnomus (Sergey Gorchakov (1905-1976)) [2:32]
3) Promenade (Walter Goehr (1903-1976)) [0:53]
4) Il vecchio castello (Emile Naoumoff (b. 1962)) [3:57]
5) Promenade (Geert Van Keulen (b. 1943)) [0:31]
6) Tuileries (Geert Van Keulen) [1:02]
7) Bydlo (Vladimir Ashkenazy (b. 1937)) [2:45]
8) Promenade (Carl Simpson (b. 1955)) [0:43]
9) Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks (Lucien Cailliet (1891-1985))[1:16]
10) Two Polish Jews, one rich, one poor (Sir Henry Wood (1869-1944)) [2:03]
11) Promenade (Lawrence Leonard (b. 1926)) [1:30]
12) Limoges, Le Marché (Leo Funtek (1885-1956)) [1:26]
13) Catacombae (John Boyd (b. 1944)) [1:48]
14) Con mortuis in lingua mortua (Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)) [1:43]
15) The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (Baba Yaga) (Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)) [3:17]
16) The Bogatyr Gate at Kiev (Douglas Gamley (1924-1998)) [6:36]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major (1849, rev. 1853, 1856) [
19:45]
The Star Spangled Banner (arr. Rob Mathes) [3:44]
Peng Peng (piano)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Nashville Symphony/Leonard Slatkin
rec. live, Laura Turner Concert Hall, Nashville USA, 21 June 2007
NAXOS 8.570716 [57:14] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


The history of Liszt’s first Piano Concerto is a convoluted one.  Sketched out in 1832 but only orchestrated in 1849 and revised in 1853 and 1856 before publication in 1857. It is in a novel form with all the movements linked by several themes.  The inclusion of the triangle caused the critic Hanslick to describe it as a ‘triangle concerto’.
 

This is a ‘live’ performance by the, then, 14 year old Peng Peng.  It opens strongly with an orchestral tutti leading to the first piano entry, played confidently and with great aplomb.  This young player can negotiate the fiendish writing for the piano with an easy confidence which one only finds in the young.  He plays the loud passages with a force belying his age, but also plays the quiet lyrical sections with great delicacy and feeling. Orchestra and conductor offer solid support.

The Pictures at an Exhibition is not the usual Ravel orchestration of 1922, but a selection of movements from some of the more than 30 orchestral arrangements of this famous piano work: see the list at the end on this article.  Leonard Slatkin has performed this musicological ‘game’ at two Henry Wood Promenade concerts in London; the first in 1991 and the second in 2004.  For those who heard these on the BBC, this is a recording of the 2004 selection, with the exception of the first promenade, which was then by Byrwec Ellison, but here by D. Wilson Ochoa.  It is interesting listening to these arrangements how some composers are faithful to the score and spirit of the pieces, and others who are almost cavalier in their treatment. 

The first Promenade has an air of expectancy and almost suppressed excitement beginning with the woodwind and including pizzicato strings, reserving the brass for the last statement of the theme. 

Gnomus (orch. Sergey Gorchakov, 1954) Gorchakov is the only Soviet representative and it is a relatively straightforward rendition, keeping the repeat identical to the first statement where Ravel employs some elaboration. 

Promenade 2 (orch. Walter Goehr, 1942) This arrangement is for a smaller orchestra so this promenade features solo strings, woodwind and brass. 

Il vecchio castello (orch. Emile Naoumoff, 1974) This is one of the pictures where the arranger has taken liberties and it is scored for piano and orchestra. The theme has been given to a variety of instruments in the various arrangements for this lilting Italian sicilienne (alto saxophone (Ravel), cor anglais (Stokowski) or muted trumpet (Gorchakov). Here the alto flute launches the melody; but the real fascination comes with the imitative, canonic lines added for solo piano. In this recording the piano is somewhat distant, sounding like an echo, which suits it well, unlike at the Prom performance where it was so prominent it just sounded bizarre – as if the pianist couldn’t count the bars! 

Promenade 3 – Tuileries (orch. Geert van Keulen, 1992)  The previous dreamy picture is interrupted by this masculine promenade, pulling the listener out of the reverie.  Then into the Tuileries with the woodwind very much in their element as the chattering children. 

Bydlo (orch. Vladimir Ashkenazy, 1982)  The Polish ox cart thunders into view and Ashkenazy makes his impact with four horns in full throated unison emphasizing the tread of the ox labouring to draw its load. 

Promenade 4 (orch. Carl Simpson, 1997)  A very conventional minor mode rendition of the promenade.

Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks (orch. Lucien Cailliet, 1937) this is treated very exuberantly, with woodblock, rattle and a flutter-tonguing blast from the trumpet. 

Two Polish Jews, One Rich, One Poor (orch. Henry Wood, 1915) Henry Wood withdrew his arrangement after he had heard Ravel’s.  The rich Jew is grand and well-upholstered in the piano version, as he is here, with fortissimo double basses and lower woodwind; the poor Jew is trembling or stammering rather than whining as in Ravel’s unforgettable solo for muted trumpet. 

Promenade 5 (orch. Lawrence Leonard, 1977) This Promenade was left out by Ravel and is at the halfway point. This arrangement for piano and orchestra made in 1975, 16 years before Naoumoff’s, is refreshingly original in its orchestral colours.

Limoges. Le marché (orch. Leo Funtek, 1922)  This is very much in the same vein as Ravel with the addition of a glittering battery of percussion. 

Catacombae (orch. John Boyd, 1986) This arrangement embodies the Grand Guignol horror of the Catacombs, which leads into the next picture: 

Cum mortuis in lingua mortua (orch. Maurice Ravel, 1922) No one has captured this in quite the same way as Ravel and it is fitting that he is represented by one of his best arrangements. 

The Hut on Hen’s Legs (orch. Leopold Stokowski, 1939)  In this arrangement, Stokowski takes liberties with the score and the four trumpets and eight horns seem to have wandered in from another piece; he does very much his own thing. All very exciting. 

The Great Gate at Kiev (orch. Douglas Gamley, 1980)  It is difficult to find a final movement which can match, or even surpass that of Ravel, but here is one by Douglas Gamley who throws several ‘extras’ into the mix,  a peel of bells, a chorus and organ to deal with the ‘church melody’ and, plenty of bells at the end for this most Russian of finales. 

The playing of these arrangements is very polished as one would expect from this quarter and the engineers have captured this ‘live’ event with remarkable clarity.  This is an interesting collection and throws into relief how diverse the arrangements are.  It also whets the appetite to hear some of these arrangements in their entirety; and gives us a useful ‘party game’ playing familiar music in an unfamiliar guise. 

The arrangement of The Star Spangled Banner came in response to a commission from the National Symphony Orchestra under the conductor Leonard Slatkin.  It takes the form of a eulogy on the tragedy of 9/11, but is not in any way tragic, it has a confidence and optimism which could only come from the American people.

Arther Smith

see also Review by Ian Lace


Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition - other arrangements:
 
* Mikhail Tushmalov (ca. 1886; three “pictures” and four Promenades omitted)
* Henry Wood (1915; four Promenades omitted)
* Leo Funtek (1922; all Promenades included)
* Maurice Ravel (1922; the fifth Promenade omitted)
* Giuseppe Becce (1922; for “salon-orchestra”)
* Leonidas Leonardi (1924)
* Lucien Cailliet (1937)
* Leopold Stokowski (1939; Tuileries, fifth Promenade and Limoges omitted)
* Walter Goehr (1942; Gnomus omitted; includes a subsidiary part for piano)
* Sergei Gorchakov (1954)
* Daniel Walter (1959)
* Helmut Brandenburg (ca. 1970)
* Emile Naoumoff (ca. 1974, for piano and orchestra)
* Zdenek Macal (ca. 1977)
* Lawrence Leonard (1977; in concerto style for piano and orchestra)
* Douglas Gamley (1980)
* Vladimir Ashkenazy (1982)
* Pung Siu-Wen (ca. 1983; for orchestra of Chinese instruments)
* John Boyd (1986)
* Alan Gout (1990; for chamber orchestra)
* Thomas Wilbrandt (1992)
* Geert van Keulen (1992
* Djong Victorin Yu (1993; amended Ravel version)
* Byrwec Ellison (1995)
* Mekong Delta (1997; for group and orchestra)
* Carl Simpson (1997)
* Julian Yu (2002; for chamber orchestra)
* Michael Allen (2007)
* Hanspeter Gmur (date unknown)
* Hidemaro Konoye (date unknown)
* Misao Kitazume (date unknown)


 


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