Most listeners are familiar with Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, in either the original version for piano or the popular orchestration by Maurice Ravel. Yet there have been several attempts to render the suite orchestrally, often by conductors who wanted to put their own stamp on the music. Peter Breiner presents his own take on Pictures with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and it is an innovative interpretation that exploits the sonorities of the 21st century orchestra, though without recourse to conventional combinations. Breiner mixes and matches instruments with considerable liberty and ingenuity, and creates timbres that are often exotic and unexpected. There is also a corresponding freedom in his adaptation of the piano music, which fits more naturally in the orchestral layout. Especially notable is Breiner's heavy reliance on percussion, for which he seems to employ every available instrument to create a nearly kaleidoscopic effect. Included in this all-Mussorgsky program are Breiner's orchestrations of Songs & Dances of Death, and The Nursery, in which the vocal lines are incorporated within the orchestration, sometimes divided between instruments, but usually assigned to one instrument when the melody calls for such treatment. The performances of these works by Breiner and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra are dazzling, vibrant, and energetic, and the sound of the digital recording is open and spacious, which gives the massive orchestra room to stretch out.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Pictures at an Exhibition|
|Songs and Dances of Death|