Mussorgsky: Pictures At An Exhibition

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Product Description

Any recording of Busoni's transcription of Bach's mighty organ Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C will inevitably be compared with the Vladimir Horowitz performance that opened his "comeback" recital in 1965 and the 78-rpm-era version of Arthur Rubinstein (resurrected on Volume 8 in BMG's Rubinstein Collection). Kissin gives us Horowitz's brilliance, without the nervous affectations and missed notes, and Rubinstein's healthy athleticism and grandeur, without the occasional inattention to detail. In a performance such as this, Kissin convinces us that he is at once the Horowitz and the Rubinstein of our era--and perhaps superior to either. In Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Kissin almost never falters in evoking the inherently Russian quality of the tableaux: the heartbreak of unrequited passion in the "Old Castle"; the lurching to and fro of "Bydlo"; the mimicry of "Tuileries"; the helter-skelter bargain-seeking of "Limoges"; and the spooky depths of "Catacombs" and "Con mortuis in lingua mortua." Perhaps "The "Hut on Fowl's Legs" and "The Great Gate of Kiev" have only been surpassed in live recitals by Kissin himself and, of course, by Sviatoslav Richter--the best of whose live performances, recorded at a 1958 recital in Sofia, is still available on a Philips disc. Kissin's encore, Balakirev's transcription of Glinka's "The Lark," demonstrates that, when it comes to creating a singing line, with sensitive phrasing and exquisite textures, he has no equal among pianists alive today. --Stephen Wigler

Customer Reviews:

  • Great recording
    Kissin once again demonstrates unusually limpid playing and fine taste.

    The Bach/Busoni is excellent. I really like Busoni's transcription, perhaps even more so than the one he did of Chaconne. This transcription was made to order for Kissin's sonorous side.

    To understate matters greatly, the third movement presents slight technical difficulties for all those who find playing arpeggios in octaves frightening. Fortunately for us, Kissin does not find such feats difficult, and the result is spectacular. At 2'30 this piece really takes flight, and almost makes the disc.

    But I think I'm now overstating matters, since the Mussorgsky recording is one of the best around. If you liked Richter's aggressive account, you'll like this one. For the most part, their interpretations converge. I liked Richter's Limoges marche better for its absolutely heart pounding crescendo near the end; Kissin's leads to an adrenaline rush but stops short of causing palpitations. The market surely came alive for me in Richter's recording, although one might protest that Richter's cresendo made it seem like the market had exploded - that's not necessarily a bad thing, however.

    Kissin's Baba-Yaga (track 19) may be definitive. Unfortunately it's so good that it might even overshadow the ending, but that criticism isn't necessarily an apt one here. Although not absolute music - since it's trying to capture the mood of Hartman's works - it's still impressionist, and as such not overly formulaic. There's no reason you need a barn storming ending. As it stands the ending is grand, just slightly adumbrated because of Kissin's Baba-Yaga performance.

    The Lark is beautiful and provides a nice transition. The piece is a transcription of a song written by Glinka. Glinka's Lark, in the song, wishes sweetly that when she's gone someone will remember her and sigh. If he keeps giving the world recording such as this one, the Lark's wish will surely come to fruition for Kissin....more info

  • Transcendant pianism of the highest order
    Kissin's rendering of Pictures at an Exhibition is piano playing of the highest order. Possibly it is as good as, or even exceeds, Richter's legendary 1958 Sofia recital version. The Bach-Busoni is equally excellent; Kissin evokes the tonal range of the organ as few pianists have. He is masterful....more info
  • Great performance
    I heartily agree with the Amazon review by Stephen Wigler.

    I recently listened to the famous Richter 1958 recital featuring Pictures and two Pictures renditions by Horowitz (1947 & 1951). All three of these Pictures are recommended in my what to buy next CD book. There is no DDD recording recommendation, but the book does mention my VOX 1955 Brendel LP. I have the above recordings on vinyl LPs and digital disc. Getting back to basics, a recording should preserve as close as possible the performance so that those who were there would be guessing, "is it live, or is it Memorex." None of the above even remotely does this by today's standards. I love Kissin's performance much more than any of the above and the recorded sound on it is simply dazzling.
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  • Brilliant, but idiosyncractic
    As with many of the other reviewers of this disc, I have my own mental reference points for these pieces. With regard to the Bach-Busoni, however, my reference point is not Horowitz, but Emil Gilels, from the first volume of the Great Pianists series. Comparing the two recordings leads me to the conclusion that the Kissen recording is preferable. Not only is the sound quality significantly better in general, but Kissen displays lightness of touch and clarity in the various polyrhythms. I agree with the other reviewers who wished Kissen would play more Bach.

    With regard to the Mussoursky, I (like your other reviewers) tend to default to Richter, although I have heard several performers play this piece. While Kissen's technique is once again formidable, he seems to have tried to delve too much into the psychology and/or setting of some of the "picture" pieces. These leads to some wonderful charcterizations, but also to some pieces that simply seem too slow. I prefer the Richter, with its more consistent pacing. This version certainly qualifies as an interesting alternative, however.

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  • An interpretation all his own
    For me personally, you can't go wrong with Kissin's interpretations. While they may be a little different from the norm, they are nevertheless convincing. And so is the case with Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. I was a little worried when I first heard the opening movement, he starts off at a fairly brisk tempo and I thought that he was just going to be zooming through the whole thing because he can. But he slows it back in various movements, and overall clocks in at almost 35 minutes for the whole piece, which was satisfying.

    While Pictures is the main focus on the CD, the accompaning pieces, the Bach-Busoni and the Glink-Balakirev are just as well performed. I enjoyed them very much, but I'm not the one that should be rating these performances. I've only heard one other version of the Bach-Busoni and have never heard the Glinka-Balakirev on seems fairly hard to find.

    It probably seems pointless for me to tell you to go buy this CD. Kissin is the type of artist that even if you didn't like the way he performs, you most likely will still buy his records and read reviews and attend his concerts. And Kissin fans will gobble up his music no matter what kind of reviews it gets anyways. But I'll go ahead and say it...go buy this album, it's very good....more info


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