The recording of Pictures at an Exhibition is in fact the soundtrack to a staged performance and video installation by Andsnes and collaborator Robin Rhode. The performance has been filmed, and the liner notes tell us that Pictures Reframed involves the “murder” of a piano and a leap into the icy North Sea. This disc, however, is the pauper’s edition – there is a much more expensive deluxe version which gives us both the recording and a DVD of the Andsnes-Rhode collaboration.
On audio terms alone, this is a straightforward and relatively unflamboyant performance of Pictures at an Exhibition. Like Vladimir Horowitz before him, Andsnes claims to find parts of Mussorgsky’s original composition quite awkward, and seeks to improve on them himself. His rewriting is subtle and not too destructive of a work I’ve always thought as best left unimproved.
The Kinderszenen is a gentle, very persuasive reading and both this and the Pictures are given
a sumptuous, velvety sheen that brings the ambience of London’s Henry Wood Hall right into your home. Mussorgsky’s Four Short Pieces, a rarely-heard 10-minute suite, rounds out a worthwhile set, though I think the full DVD/CD deluxe package would be more satisfying.