Reclaiming Mussorgsky's great showpiece

The mighty Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra make Mussorgsky's mighty orchestral showcase, Pictures at an Exhibition, their own

Composer: Mussorgsky
Repertoire: Pictures at an Exhibition
Artists: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Jansons
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: RCO Live 09004

As hoary warhorses go, Ravel’s 1922 orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is about as ubiquitous as it gets. To override this dimmed familiarity, a Rolls Royce orchestra and a conductor prepared to think outside the box are required: Jansons and the RCO are just such a team. The conductor ‘frames’ each picture faultlessly by ensuring that the iconic ‘Promenade’ sections properly bend with Mussorgsky’s supple changes of harmony and mood. The alto sax player adds forthright Gothic menace to ‘The Medieval Castle’; Jansons’s ‘Great Gate of Kiev’ is unashamedly muscular.