Jarvi's Mountainous Mussorgsky


On the new Telarc disc Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, Night on Bald Mountain, Prelude to Khovanshchina, Paavo Järvi leads the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a fiery reading of "Night on Bald Mountain" that conjures up the witches' demonic gathering with bristling fervor.

The colorful tone poem, re-orchestrated by Mussorgsky's colleague Rimsky-Korsakov, is so musically descriptive that listeners hardly need the programmatic descriptions attached to the work to imagine the witches evoked by the composer.

Järvi, who has been music director since 2001, and the Cincinnati band also illuminate the eclectic scenes of Mussorgsky's ever-popular "Pictures at an Exhibition," performed here in a new edition of Ravel's orchestration of the original 1929 score. The performance is so vivid that you can imagine the details in Victor Hartmann's paintings, which include a watercolor of a troubadour singing in front of a mediaeval Italian castle ("Il Vecchio Castello"), a drawing of two oxen pulling a heavy cart ("Bydlo") and a picture of a French market ("Le Marché"). The works of Hartmann, a close friend of Mussorgsky's, inspired the composer's original 10-movement piano suite.

The recording also includes the Prelude to Mussorgsky's "Khovanshchina" ("Dawn on the Moscow River"), an opera orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov. Järvi vividly illuminates the scene, with the woodwinds evocatively playing the Russian folk theme.