Khovanshchina, Act V: Golitsin’s Exile (arr. N. Rimsky-Korsakov)
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky: St. John's Night on Bald Mountain, "A Night on the Bare Mountain" (original version)
St. John's Night on Bald Mountain, "A Night on the Bare Mountain"
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. M. Ravel)
I. ll vecchio castello
V. Ballet of the Chickens in their Shells
VI. Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle
VII. Limoges - The Market Place
Cum mortius in Lingua morta
IX. The Hut on Fowls' Legs, "Baba Yaga"
X. The Great Gate of Kiev
“Ravel's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition was commissioned by Koussevitzky as a showpiece for his superb Boston orchestra, and it proves just as impressive here to demonstrate the excellence of the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine. The colour palette of the woodwind is a joy, as we discover in both 'Tuileries' and the deliciously cheeping 'Unhatched Chickens'; and how beautifully the solo saxophone sings his sad serenade outside 'The Old Castle'. In representing the bold profile of 'Samuel Goldenberg', the massed lower strings show their splendid body of tone, and the punch of the brass entry in 'Catacombae' has the richest underlying resonance in a performance full of eerie menace. The percussion come fully into their own in 'The Hut on Fowl's Legs', where the bass drummer adds dramatic weight and point. The 'Great Gate of Kiev' is given with the full, rich orchestral sonority now thrillingly expansive, and Kuchar broadening the final statement of the great chorale to give the listener a tingling frisson of satisfaction. It was an original and fascinating idea to record both the original Mussorgsky score of Night onthe Bare Mountain alongside the Rimsky arrangement, for in many ways they're entirely different works, something Theodore Kuchar underlines by his contrasting interpretations. It may be unfashionable to say so, but however inspired and original Mussorgsky's draft score is in conception, the all-but-recomposed Rimsky-Korsakov piece is the finer work overall. With a superbly rasping opening from the heavy brass, and thrusting forward momentum, Kuchar readily captures its intitial and recurring malignant force, deftly amalgamating the jollity of Rimsky's interpolated brass fanfares, then producing a magically peaceful close, with radiant playing from the Russian woodwind. To sum up, this is a quite remarkable CD on all counts – outstandingly fine orchestral playing, vividly exciting and very Russian musicmaking, and a very tangible sound picture, consistently in the demonstration bracket.”
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