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CD Review

Modest Mussorgsky

Berlin 2139
  • Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel)
  • Night on Bald Mountain
Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig/Igor Markevich
Berlin 2139 (Koch) 43min
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Markevich leads a ponderous, leaden, and curiously gray account of the usually sure-fire Ravel orchestration of Pictures. His clipped, staccato approach to articulation has all the charm and subtlety of an overactive machine gun. Even though Bernstein's tempos (Sony Royal Edition) are almost uniformly slower, his lively accents, pointed phrasing, and dramatic flair all make this recording sound hopelessly routine and flaccid.

The breathless opening of Markevich's Night on Bald Mountain flies past in one big blur, while the slower concluding pages lack either character or distinction. The recording was very closely miked, and solo instruments have been artificially highlighted. The Leipzig strings sound dangerously threadbare, while the brass playing is raucous and unrefined. The squawking trumpet in 'Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle' is particularly annoying. I'd object to Berlin's scanty playing time if the performances were better.

Copyright © 1996, Tom Godell

Trumpet