Aram Il’yich Khachaturian, MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition

James Jolly

By James Jolly

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A subtle and beautiful recording of Mussorgsky’s tribute to a friend.

Modest Mussorgsky wrote "Pictures at an Exhibition" in memory of a friend, artist and architect Viktor Hartmann, who'd died at 39. Inspired by a posthumous exhibition of Hartmann's paintings, Mussorgsky composed a suite of ten impressions of the paintings interspersed with "promenades." They were published in 1886, after Mussorgsky's death. In 1922, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky, Ravel orchestrated the suite and it is in that form that the "Pictures" have achieved their current popularity. Ravel's genius as an orchestrator is evident everywhere — in the subtlety of "The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks," the vitality of "Limoges," the majesty of "The Great Gate of Kiev." With its variety and fund of imaginative details, it's a terrific work to hear live. And when an orchestra is clearly having fun playing it — as here — the piece really takes off. The climax never fails to impress with its splendour, sheer size and colossal power.