3. The Old Castle
4. The Tuileries Garden
6. Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks
7. Two Jews Rich and Poor
9. Limoges: The Marketplace
11. With the Dead in a Dead Language
12. The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba Yaga)
13. The Great Gate of Kiev
Eyran Katsenelenbogen, Andrei Ivanovitch - Pianos
Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition was originally composed as a piano piece but it has since appeared in numerous versions, including a rock interpretation by Emerson, Lake & Palmer and orchestrations by such diverse arrangers as Ravel, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Henry Wood (not forgetting the arrangement by Elgar Howarth for brass and percussion). The work's enduring appeal is easily understood: it is a vividly pictorial piece of programme music, taking the listener around an exhibition of Victor Hartmann's pictures.
This DVD presents the work as a piano duet labelled "Classical Meets Jazz", with Andrei Ivanovitch supplying the classical side and Eyran Katsenelenbogen jazzing it up. I have already acclaimed Eyran on MusicWeb (http://www.musicweb-international.com/jazz/2009/Katsenelenbogen_9008.htm) and his playing here contains some striking pieces of improvisation. The DVD was filmed in 2009 at Jordan Hall at Boston's New England Conservatory, where Eyran is a teacher.
Andrei Ivanovitch generally fills the role of a "straight man", opening the proceedings by stating the well-known Promenade theme, upon which Katsenelenbogen then improvises. Eyran often refers back to this theme when improvising on subsequent movements., including some of those startling runs that Eyran handles so effectively. Meanwhile Andrei is generally content to state Mussorgysky's original lines, although his fingering occasionally lets him doing, generating some unhappy discords.
The film effectively uses a split screen at times, so that we can see what both pianists are doing. Yet there are too many occasions when, far from collaborating, the pianists take turns to perform. And I feel there is not enough jazz improvisation to make a sufficient impact during the 36 minutes of the piece. There are only a few places where Katsenelenbogen surprises with his jazzy approach to the original - one such being when he interpolates George Gershwin's Summertime into The Great Gate of Kiev!
For encores, Andrei returns to play Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumble Bee, followed by Eyran performing part of the Nutcracker Suite. These pieces seem appropriate, as they are both by fellow-Russians of Mussorgsky.
The phrase "Classical Meets Jazz" sums up the DVD, although - like many attempts at blending jazz and classical music - the two strains meet without getting very close to one another.