Due to the extraordinary popularity of Maurice Ravel's 1922 orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition, it's all too easy to overlook Modest Mussorgsky's original 1874 composition for piano. And since Igor Stravinsky's 1913 orchestral score of Le Sacre du printemps has achieved immortality, his contemporaneous two-piano transcription is far less known and performed. It is therefore appropriate that these somewhat obscure embodiments of famous works are paired on this Harmonia Mundi release in sympathetic performances by pianists Andreï Vieru and Dan Grigore, artists whose tonal palette is wonderfully varied in its shadings and rich enough in its textures to suggest at times orchestral colors and combinations. Details are quite clear in these 1996 performances, thanks in part to the utter transparency of Mussorgsky's and Stravinsky's keyboard writing, but also to the meticulous care of Vieru and Grigore, who seem never to play a note without judging its effect first. Add to this high level of musical achievement the balanced and clean recording provided by Harmonia Mundi, as well as the noiseless but responsive studio sound, and it becomes obvious that this excellent recording deserves several hearings. Even though the orchestral versions are preferred by most listeners, this enlightening CD will persuade more than a few to appreciate these brilliant keyboard showpieces for their unique timbral qualities and historical significance.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Pictures at an Exhibition (Kartinki s vïstavski), for piano|
|Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), ballet in 2 parts for piano, 4 hands|