Few pianists have tackled recording the original piano version of Mussorgsky's perennially fascinating suite, simply because the famous recording of Sviatoslav Richter seemed impossible to equal-- this despite the recording's technical flaws (it was after all recorded live and it sounds it). But those who want an equally masterful rendition of the work need look no further than this excellent Mercury disk. A different interpretation in ways than Richter's, but Byron Janis' vision of the work is no less sure or authoritative, and his pianism is brilliant. AND the recording quality is much MUCH better! And on the same disk -- after a pair of bonus Chopin waltzes -- one has the Antal Dorati/Minneapolis version of the Ravel orchestration: despite a few quibbles about tempo here and there, overall this is among the very best renditions on disc, and some of the pieces are the best ever -- from the opening grandeur of "Promenade" to the ballet of the chicks in their...
For those who want a CD that contains both piano and orchestral versions of Mussorgsky's Pictures, this is the best available currently in the market and deserves a Rosette in addition to three stars by the Penguin Guide. Janis is a brilliant pianist, and he manages to capture the essence of Mussorgsky's work in his performance in one foul swoop. He varies the mood of each Promenade to link pictures together, and he can characterise the pictures well, making you see them jumping out at you. The Gnomus and Catacomba pictures have never sounded threatening, and the Old Castle forboding. The remaining pictures are all well done and are worth half the price of this CD alone. Janis definitely leaves you on the edge of your seat, and the excellent vintage remastering enables the vintage Mercury quality to shine through excellently. In short, this is one of the best recorded piano versions of Pictures. The disc is appropriately coupled to the orchestral version of the score,...
I waited years for these recordings to be released on CD. My favorite "Pictures" was this Dorati recording, and this recording by Janis is pure pleasure. We all know that superlative performance can be compromised so very easily by poor production. The restoration of the Living Presence sound reinforces the vision of its creators. As with the other Mercury recordings, this CD places the listener in the audience, in the hall, to an uncanny degree. How many recordings have we all purchased that placed us somewhere in the orchestra rather than the audience! This is indeed rosette-level listening and a must-have for anyone's shelf!
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