STRAVINSKY Petruschka MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition
Here is more seemingly effortless music-making from Mariss Jansons. The interpretations of both pieces being broadly consistent with those he recently released on the RCO label, one is bound to ask why he feels the need to revisit yet again repertoire he also recorded in Oslo in the 1990s. It goes almost without saying that the Bavarians make a glorious noise, perfectly integrated from top to bottom with a delightfully rounded lower-middle, well captured live in two local venues. Indeed, Petrushka can rarely have seemed more sheerly beautiful, even when questionable minutiae obtrude. More worrying is the lack of forward thrust in the ‘Shrovetide Fair’, shimmering and translucent as it is, but then this spacious, hyper-detailed account shows little interest in the trajectory of the plot or in sounding combustibly Slav. It was the same story in Amsterdam (RCO, 2/06).
Given that Ravel himself smooths over Mussorgsky’s intentions to some degree, Jansons is arguably on firmer ground in presenting the Pictures in bejewelled but deracinated fashion. He takes his time as in 2008, strolling through the galleries rather than revelling in implied psychodrama. He is certainly an attentive observer – the strings characterise ‘The Gnome’ to the nth degree. Elsewhere refinement wins out over excitement, and arriving at ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’ I had long since begun to pine for something more raucous. There is, however, an impressively real-sounding bell.
Applause is retained after both works and presentation standards are characteristically high. You might object to the hazy photographic image just inside the booklet, though in leaving the conductor a blur and focusing instead on part of Ravel’s score it complements Jansons’s gentle, self effacing approach.