I enjoyed this release for the quality of the playing by a supposedly “provincial” US orchestra which, like many others there, is anything but. Pictures at an Exhibition is a real warhorse, usually heard in Ravel’s glamorous orchestration, which, in a sense, traduces the expressionist starkness of Mussorgsky’s piano original. Sergei Gorchakov’s 1955 version rejects Ravel’s conception of Pictures as a concerto for orchestra. Instead he accentuates the strings, particularly the cellos, and the result is, well, more Russian.
Catacombs seems more sinister, almost Dostoyevskian, and The Old Castle emits a chill reminiscent of Sibelius. Miguel Harth-Bedoya claims to have retained all the ‘wrong’ notes, which has imbued the score with a raw earthiness and keeps the momentum in The Great Gate of Kiev, always a potential stumbling block. It won’t have you on the edge of your sofa, but I’m glad, nonetheless, they recorded it.
Of greater interest was Harth-Bedoya’s own suite from Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella where he orders the music chronologically in contrast to the composer’s own suites. I’ve always loved this sophisticated, late-night Prokofiev score, which seems to occupy the same sound world as the Seventh Symphony. The most memorable moment for me is the ticking clock countdown to midnight, which is quite terrifying here with a real sense of urgency (so unlike Haydn’s jolly little cuckoo clock). Overall, fine playing and conducting, and OK sound.