There’s something refreshing about piano transcriptions of well-known orchestral pieces (we had some Elgar the other week), reducing all that clutter down to a single instrument, and the intro of Mussorgsky’s most famous work suits this pared-down performance.
Except of course: Modest Mussorgsky wrote Pictures At An Exhibition in 1874 for the piano, and it is the Maurice Ravel orchestration we know best. Or the Emerson Lake and Palmer if you’re a certain age and loved all that proggy musical verbosity, in which case this is a good chance to shake off the embarrassment of youth.
This work not only offers a refreshing take on the piece but shows how Modest originally wrote it, full of fire and energy. Italian pianist Giacomo Scinardo plays powerfully and enunciates every note, despite its technical difficulty.
The other thing about it is that it’s just really cool. Scinardo smoulders like a boy band star on the sleeve, whose black and white design looks good. The recording/production has something modern about it, and sounds crisp, and the music has a modern feel.
It’s a double CD, the second disk featuring more Mussorgsky. It’s as good as Pictures, even if you’re not familiar with the pieces. If we played no other CDs for the rest of the year but this and Elspeth Wyllie’s Enigmas, which features piano versions of Elgar, we’d be more than happy.
This is out on Dynamic, CDS7786.
The Elgar is out on Divine Art, dda 25145