Mussorgsky-Stokowski: Pictures at an Exhibition

Mussorgsky-Stokowski: Pictures at an Exhibition

by José Serebrier


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Mussorgsky-Stokowski: Pictures at an Exhibition

The art of transcription tends to receive less respect than it deserves, and no one did more in the 20th century to earn respect in this field than the conductor Leopold Stokowski. His orchestral arrangements of Bach -- most famously for Disney's Fantasia -- exposed that composer's music to countless new listeners, and his versions of works by Modest Mussorgsky were almost equally significant. Stokowski's transcription of Pictures at an Exhibition will likely always fall in the shadow of Maurice Ravel's brilliant orchestration of Mussorgsky's piano score, yet it's a very impressive piece of work, hewing closer to a dark and typically Russian sound. If some of Ravel's piquant details are missed -- the opening trumpet solo, the saxophone in "The Old Castle" -- there are just as many moments where the advantage goes to Stokowski, not least in the powerful strains of "The Great Gate of Kiev," which sounds quite close to the world of Boris Godunov in this version. Speaking of that operatic masterpiece, Stokowski's "symphonic synthesis" of its themes makes for the most gripping listening on this disc; condensing key moments into a commanding 25-minute arch, it conveys both the opera's dramatic majesty and tragedy. Stokowski's Night on Bare Mountain (the version used in Fantasia) gives free rein to suitably creepy orchestral effects, and his Entr'acte from Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina is as somber and moving as one could wish. These transcriptions also appeared recently on another fine disc, conducted by Oliver Knussen, but the survey here by José Serebrier (a Stokowski protégé) with the Bournemouth Symphony easily matches it; and at a budget price, with the bonus additions of two brief Tchaikovsky transcriptions and Stokowski's arrangement of Slavic Christmas melodies, this release clearly has the edge.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/21/2005
Label: Naxos
UPC: 0747313264520
catalogNumber: 8557645
Rank: 167082


  1. Night on Bald Mountain (Noch' na Lïsoy gore), symphonic poem, edited by Stokowski
  2. Khovanshchina, opera in 5 acts, edited by Rimsky-Korsakov: Act IV. Khovanshchina
  3. Symphonic Synthesis on "Boris Godunov", for orchestra (after Mussorgsky)
  4. Pictures at an Exhibition (Kartinki s vïstavski), for orchestra, orchestrations other than Ravel's
  5. Morceaux (2) for piano (or piano & violin), Op. 10: No. 2
  6. Solitude (Again, as before, alone), song for voice & piano, Op. 73/6
  7. Traditional Slavic Christmas Music, for string & brass choirs

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