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Mussorgsky / Stokowski: Pictures at an Exhibition

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

Price: £43.06
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Product details

  • Orchestra: Cleveland Orchestra
  • Conductor: Oliver Knussen
  • Composer: Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky
  • Audio CD (8 Mar. 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B0000YWFMM
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,033 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
As one who finds Stokowski's orchestrations of Bach as uninspired and boring, I approached this CD of his arrangements of Mussorgsky's best known works with trepidation. I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised. What Stokowski has tended to do here is take existing orchestrations - by Ravel or by Rimsky-Korsakov - and make his own arrangements. This bring out new meanings to the music and, in the case of "Pictures", emphasise the "Russianness" of the music.
Stokowski's arrangement of "Pictures" omits some of the movements that Ravel uses (such as "Tuileries") and beefs up others such as the Great Gate of Kiev to produce a sound spectacle. It is good to hear the music played with such commitment and energy by the Cleveland Orchestra under Oliver Knussen.
The suite based on Boris Godunov is a coherent introduction to this magnificent opera and the extract from Kovanshchina is powerfully performed.
The Night on the Bare Mountain is the arrangement used in "Fantasia" and is most obviously a re-arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestration. The conclusion - which is Stokowski's own - is a short chorale which brings the symphonic poem to a thunderous conclusion.
Not for the faint-hearted but with sumptuous sound and excellent performances, this is music to wallow in for sheer enjoyment. There are very good programme notes, including some interesting insights - with illustrations - of how Stokowski set about his task.
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Format: Audio CD
Unlike Mr Harnett I am a MAJOR fan of Stokowski transcriptions and own a number of these on CD. I bought this CD on the strength of a rave review in the Times. What a bummer! After I'd listened to it, I played my old version (and I DO mean old): Telarc CD-80042 Maazel/Cleveland Orchestra.
This completely blows the Knussen away such that I won't be hanging on to the Knussen, even as a comparative listen.
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Format: Audio CD
I bought this as a newcomer to Stokowski, but a big fan of Pictures at an Exhibition and initially was impressed with the early parts, The Old Castle being particularly entrancing. Unfortunately, Stokowski's decision to jettison Tuileries and The Market-place at Limoges for being "too french" (surprising that a piece about a French city should sound French!) leaves the work uneven, without the lightness to counterbalance the gloom of other pieces. In addition, Stokowski's (or Knussen, the conductor's) decision to speed up Bydlo is bizzare, an Ox-cart moving as fast as a race-horse!

The other works included are very well arranged, though my familiarity with them is not so great. The version of Night on Bare Mountain is recommended, being very quiet and very loud to good effect. The arrangement borrows from and improves upon Rimsky's attempt.

I would not recommend this version of Pictures at an Exhibition to a newcomer, and suggest that fans looking for something unusual look no further than one of the solo piano versions.
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By Bill Glen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 Mar. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
These performances of Stokowski arrangements make for a truly fascinating disc, with outstanding vivid sound to match these brilliantly conducted and played accounts. A fabulous disc on all counts.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9e733420) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e035258) out of 5 stars The disc will either convert you or send you packing 14 Nov. 2013
By John J. Puccio - Published on Amazon.com
This disc of Stokowski's orchestral transcriptions of several Mussorgsky works will either convert you or send you packing.

Stokowski made his version of Pictures at an Exhibition in 1939, more than a decade and a half after Ravel did his familiar reworking. My first and lasting impression of Stokowski's version was one of greater fluency, greater poetry, and greater romanticism than the Ravel orchestration. Stokowski utilizes a lot more lush strings, which leads to much of this feeling. However, on most recordings it's hard to tell how much of this effect is the result of Stokowski's orchestration, or, in the case of this recording, the result of the Cleveland Orchestra and Maestro Oliver Knussen.

Anyway, the combination of Stokowski, the Cleveland players, Maestro Knussen, and the DG engineers provides us with an ultrasmooth, ultrasophisticated Pictures, much different from the Ravel arrangements I've gotten used to from the likes of Reiner (RCA), Muti (EMI), Maazel (Telarc), and Ansermet (Decca). In the process of refining the score, Stokowski and company render it less volatile, less explosive, and, well, less colorful. In fact, much of the color seems washed out of the work compared to the aforementioned renditions. However, the listener might find "The Hut on Fowl's Legs" fascinating for its herky-jerky dynamism, and certainly "The Great Gate of Kiev" comes across with a splendid grandeur.

More interesting for me was the shorter Entr'acte to Khovanshchina, which is direct, to the point, and incisive. Maybe it's too short, though, for its own good. Knussen handles the other works, Night on Bare Mountain and the Boris Godunov Symphonic Synthesis quite well, too, although I doubt many potential buyers are looking just for these things.

I also wonder how much the DG engineers are responsible for the music's smoothness, to the extent of having little apparent bite. The sound is so polished and comfortable and so multi-miked, one is in danger of calling it mood music. Yet the sound does not lack a deep bass or a strong dynamic impact. Curious. I think some listeners will respond to it quite favorably, especially if they have become tired of listening to the hard, shrill, bright sound found on some CDs. I didn't find DG's sound at all objectionable; I just didn't find it particularly natural or realistic.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e03c720) out of 5 stars One of Cleveland's finest efforts 5 May 2015
By Fletch - Published on Amazon.com
I keep coming back to this recording and find it perennially astonishing. Opinions on Stokowski's strategy can be bandied, of course, but Knussen and Cleveland bring quite a lot of life to it and give this less often heard transcription a very heart-felt read. The tracks from Boris Godunov are dark and moody, atmospheric. Stokowski's ideas finally lose me on Night on Bald Mountain, I think the Ravel transcription is more cohesive and exciting, though the jaggedness of Leo's account is enjoyable.

In terms of timbre and orchestral technique, the engineering and playing are unequaled. Cleveland sounds magnificent here, in full bloom of post-Szell precision blessed with modern wind and brass technique with modern recording equipment used to best results. The strings sections have none of the fuzzy imprecision that virtually every other orchestra accepts, they move as a monolith whether delicate or thunderous. Another reviewer comments several times on the smoothness of the sound and I heartily agree - this is very good engineering that fully reveals Cleveland's flawless polish. For anyone looking to hear Cleveland at it's finest, this is the disc.

Knussen bows to the Cleveland approach, one of circumspect performance that never flies off the handle. His reading is relatively understated, but in the big moments, he brings the full power of the orchestra to bear, making for frisson-inducing summits. Outside of the thrills, Knussen never brings a compressed or academic feeling, he consistently works subtle magic into the music and brings an sense of continuity to the emotion of it. This reading of arguably difficult to present material is done with satisfying aplomb and natural drama.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e03c6f0) out of 5 stars Good disc 3 Mar. 2013
By Richard` Rodrick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Always preferred the Stokowski orchestional version of this piece compared to the Ravel interpretation which to my ears is sort of drab and lifeless, this verisoni is much more invigorating.
HASH(0x9e040b34) out of 5 stars Five Stars 26 Aug. 2014
By Xierra - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A fantstic orchestration by Stokowski, and billiant splendid performance by Cleveland Orchestra.
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e03c5d0) out of 5 stars Terrific performances 2 Nov. 2005
By Music fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Don't bother with the new Naxos or an older BBC recording of these works. This easily beats them in all aspects: orchestra, conductor, etc. The others don't come close.
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