Two things conspired to keep me from discovering this one-of-a-kind 'Pictures at an Exhibition' sooner. First, there are enough great recordings to go around from Reiner, Karajan, Stokowksi--name your own. Second, I assumed that Bernstien would conduct this thrice-familiar piece simply as a commercial duty. I was wrong: this is the most personal performance among the great ones. Bernstein has ideas and feelings in every section, and with the NY Phil. at its virtuosic best, the whole thing is an enchanting discovery.
Bernstein's secret is that he goes to the heart of the music rather than just conducting Ravel's brilliant orchestration. As a result, we feel we are looking at separate paintings on the wall, just as Mussorgsky intended, each with its own flavor, more often than not tinged with melancholy (after all, Mussorgsky's artist friend had died). Compared to this account, all the others I own seem a bit shallow and glittery--this one is pure soul.
When we are young certain things imprint on us. The smells, tastes and sounds take on meaning. They provide paths to memories and associations that you may even have forgotten you had. When these are invoked they awaken those memories.
This is extremely true for music. If you hear a snippet of a sound or melody a cascade of associated feeling may flood your mind.
My father was (who was offered a scholarship to Juilliard for clarinet), loved classical music. I remember laying in bed on Sunday mornings listening to WQXR having him point out the different instruments to me and conducting the orchestra while his head was on the pillow.
Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic was his orchestra of choice. We would watch and listen to the Young People's Concerts on CBS whenever they aired. We even would go to Lincoln Center on occasion to hear them live. Joy. While the music was wonderful, it was equally fun to watch Lenny conduct!
For anyone enjoys great classic music, this is a must-have. The music plays beautifully on my Kindle and is perfect for plane trips, too, because headsets' audio is good. I highly recommend this music.
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