Considering that Mariss Jansons recorded the Mussorgsky material in this two-disc with the Oslo Philharmonic in the Konserthus in Oslo in 1988 and the Rimsky-Korsakov material with the London Philharmonic in Abbey Road Studio in London in 1994, the sound and the performances are amazingly consistent. Naturally, the orchestras are distinctly different. The Oslo Philharmonic is the best orchestra in Norway with lean but muscular strings, colorful and characterful brass and woodwinds, and a solid but not especially refined ensemble while the London Philharmonic is one of the better London orchestra with rich but perhaps too ripe strings, colorful but not particularly characterful brass and woodwinds, and a well-polished ensemble. But the actual performances themselves are amazingly similar in conception and execution -- a testimony to conductor Mariss Jansons' skill and individuality.
With the Oslo, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition in its familiar orchestration by Ravel glitters and gleams with a mixture of barbaric power and sophisticated elegance while his Night on Bald Mountain and Khovanshchina Overture, in their familiar orchestrations by Rimsky-Korsakov, shimmer and shine with a mixture of demonic energy and heavenly poise. With the London Philharmonic, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade blazes and burns with a combination of luminous orchestral colors and dramatic musical narratives, while Capricco espagnol crackles and sizzles with a combination of gaudy orchestral colors and irresistible rhythmic energy. Likewise, the sound of the performances is amazingly similar because in both cases, EMI grants the orchestras a clear, warm, deep, and lush acoustic. Although old-timers might vote for the mighty Reiner performances with the Chicago Symphony as the finest recordings of all time, anyone with a fondness for any of these works will enjoy these discs.