Maurice Ravel's brilliant orchestral version of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition needs no introduction, but the other works on this 2011 Onyx release may be less familiar to some listeners. The Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Little Russian," of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky is possibly the least performed of his symphonies, owing less to any real or perceived deficiency in the music than to the extreme popularity of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth. This is a modest though competent work based on Ukrainian folk themes, and it has the composer's recognizable orchestral sound and nationalist style, without any of the biographical associations that have made people love Tchaikovsky for the wrong reasons. The original, raw version of Mussorgsky's Night on the Bare Mountain is far less frequently played or recorded than the tidy arrangement by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, though it deserves greater exposure because of its many unknown passages, startling effects, and impressive eccentricity. Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra play all three selections with commitment and energy, but it's safe to say that the Mussorgsky pieces were played with the greatest enthusiasm. The unpredictability of Night on the Bare Mountain makes it seem like tremendous fun to play, while Pictures at an Exhibition is stirring and vibrantly colorful, so the orchestra rises to the occasion because the score is magnificent.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 'Little Russian'|
|Pictures at an Exhibition|