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Reviews: Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, Night on the Bare Mountain - Kuchar

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Reviews: 5

Site review by Polly Nomial March 2, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:    
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

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Review by jdaniel@jps.net June 19, 2004 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Mussorgsky:
Pictures at an Exhibition, (orch. Ravel)
Night on Bald Mountain, original and Rimsky's
Golitsin's Exile from Khovanchina
Hopak from Sorochinsky Fair
Naxos SACD $11.99 USD
(did you notice? $11.99?)

Wow. I didn't think I could get excited while listening to Pics at an Ex
ever again, but the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine turns in a
vivid performance. From the deliciously unhomogenized oboe, to the earthy
but warm strings, to the overly-earnest percussion section...it was a
delight all the way through. (Don't tell anyone, but usually I move ahead
to the Hut and Gate.

One of the many striking moments was how splashy Ravel's writing for bells,
gong and cymbals sounds in the last quiet run before the final statement of
the Great Gate theme; it was an unusually colorful, intense and exciting
build up. The heaving string
writing in Bydlo comes off particulary sad and burdensome, as the cart
lumbers along. Lighter moments for winds are vividly characterized.

Had enough of Night on Bald Mountain? You get two versions here: Rimsky's
correction, and Mussy's original. I like both, though my favorite
alternative being the one with chorus, as it sounds the most errie of all.
(Abbado/Sony, I believe.) Kuchar and the Ukraine make them sound freshly-minted.

If you think you had no romance left for this music, it got me goin' again.

Once again the SACD recording, (I opted for the 2-channel layer),
intoxicates the ear in a way that PCM never did for me, though I never would
have known when PCM was all there was. "Relaxed" is the best way I could
decribe the sound, for what it's worth. While I've read that Naxos' recordings with the Russian National Orchestra have been hit and miss, this one's up there with the best of them: vivid, warm, huge soundstage and just the right amount of reverberance. I look forward to hearing this in multi-channel.

John Smyth
Sac, CA

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Review by mandel October 31, 2004 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Agree wholeheartedly with jdaniel@jps.net so just want to add about the Multichannel version. This is astounding and took away my worries that cheaper label SACDs might not be all that they could be. The use of surrounds is subtle but the soundstage is vast and so natural sounding, with instruments not only seeming to be panned left to right in front of you but some further away than others. I must admit to being new to classical SACD but this just simply blew me away!

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Review by Doug Otte November 1, 2004 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I agree w/ both reviews below. The music is wonderful (even the "fill-ins" in the middle); it's nice to compare the two different versions of "Bare Mountain." The playing is brash (in a good way) and enthusiastic. A few times during the Rimsky "Bare Mountain" it almost sounded like the orchestra was plowing ahead so fast they'd trip and the whole thing would fall apart, but they didn't. Very exciting. Maybe these pieces sound best when played by Russians (or Ukrainians in this case). The proud emotions are right there, hitting you in the gut.

Sonically, I'm only giving this one 4 stars because Telarcs set the standard for SACDs. I have two Naxos discs - this one and the Shostakovich "Hamlet." They both sound quite good, but seem to have a slight edge - PCM-based recordings? Anyway, the clarity and imaging are amazing. In contrast to Mandel, I can't hear anything from the surrounds. Everything seems to be coming from the mains, center, and sub. I'm not complaining; considering how good this disc is overall, I don't miss the surrounds. Many have already noted how well DSD captures massed strings, but I also think it does a great job w/ brass. And on this disc, they seem to really emphasize the brass sections.

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Review by ritournel February 4, 2005 (1 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I am a bit dissapointed by this one. In comparison to the excellent Dutoit/Montreal S.O. regular CD (although on that record the brass sound typically "american" what is somehow strange for russian music, but I like it), this SACD recording is definitely not a first choice. I am missing lots of strings here and the brass are sometimes too present. The presence of the original orchestration of the night on a blare mountain is a plus. The orchestra should be capable of doing better and the sound engineers were not at their best. Therefore pleasant enough if you don't know another recording. By the way I listen the 2 channels track.

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