In this day and age, a compact disc with a playing time of 33:02 is more than a tad short, but what is here is stunning: an account of Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition that reveals the grandeur of the music in a performance of tremendous vitality and a recording of stupendous immediacy. Mariss Jansons finds things in this well-known score that most conductors miss -- details of articulation, phrasing and balance that often go unnoted -- and brings out the work's enormous variety of forms, moods, and colors. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam plays with its accustomed super virtuosity, reveling in overcoming the score's prodigious challenges with effortless panache. RCO Live's super audio recording captures everything in sound that puts the listener in the Concertgebouw about 10 rows back from the stage. But, really, only 33:02? Why not more Ravel or more Mussorgsky, a bit of Borodin or a slice of Stravinsky? What's here is inestimable, but it leaves the listener eager for more.
Musorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition Review
by James Leonard