MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition PROKOFIEV Cinderella
Sergei Gorchakov’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures was completed in 1955. This is the fifth recording of it I know of, making it the most familiar – at least on disc – after Ravel’s. Grzegorz Nowak’s 2014 recording with the RPO is the only rival currently available, part of an all-Mussorgsky programme for Orchid Classics. (The recordings by Masur for Teldec, Rickenbacher for RCA and Simeonov for Melodiya have passed out of circulation.)
In character, Gorchakov’s dark, more Russian-sounding version lies somewhere between the Frenchman’s virtuoso showpiece and Leo Funtek’s rather less flashy but no less brilliant arrangement. There are moments of grandeur that come close to Ravel – in ‘Bydło’, for example, and ‘Baba Yaga’ – as does some of the lighter instrumentation, for instance in the ‘Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks’. The double portrait of ‘Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle’ has a sinister demeanour that is very well caught. Overall, though, I cannot escape the thought that Gorchakov was reacting to Ravel’s version as much as Mussorgsky’s masterpiece. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, recorded live, play it very well indeed though cannot disguise the limitations of the version.
Miguel Harth-Bedoya has a knack for getting the most out of the players in front of him; and, as it was with Mussorgsky, so it proves with the substantial 30-minute selection of extracts from Prokofiev’s Cinderella. In a sense, just as the Gorchakov Pictures falls rather between two stools, so too does this selection: not one of the three suites (Opp 107 109) the composer prepared, nor the complete ballet itself. As a collection of ‘best bits’ it serves well enough and is very decently played, as can be judged from the appreciative audience reaction at the end.