Mussorgsky greats a gripping listen

Rimsky-Korsakov’s and Ravel’s orchestrations of Mussorgsky border on the banal, but Carlo Ponti injects them with life

Composer:  Mussorgsky
Repertoire: Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel); A Night on the Bare Mountain, et al.
Artists: Russian National Orchestra/Carlo Ponti
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: Pentatone Classics PTC 5186 332

Rimsky-Korsakov’s and Ravel’s orchestrations of Mussorgsky are today acknowledged as having their own not very Mussorgskyan agenda. Even so, new recordings just keep on coming. This one, to its credit, has Ponti keeping cheap-shot rhetoric at arm’s length: in Pictures , his evocation of the catacombs is if anything too polite. Elsewhere, his thoughtful musicianship secures a classy orchestral response, so that even Rimsky’s near-banal rewrite of A Night on the Bare Mountain makes for gripping listening. So do the extracts from Mussorgsky’s two unfinished operas – Sorochinsky Fair and Khovanshchina. 

Mussorgsky