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MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition / Boris Godunov

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Symphonic transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski

One of the reasons Leopold Stokowski decided to make hisown orchestral version of Mussorgsky's Night on BareMountain was to get closer to the original, bolder and wilderversion, as opposed to Rimsky-Korsakov's cleaner,westernized revision. In fact, Stokowski's version isactually close to Rimsky-Korsakov's in content and form,while faithful to the original Mussorgsky in theorchestration. The 1940 Disney film was a perfect vehiclefor Stokowski's grandiose vision of the work. Mussorgskyworked on it in one way or another throughout his short life.

In 1866 it was his first large-scale orchestral work, St John'sNight on the Bare Mountain based on Gogol's story StJohn's Eve (twenty years later Rimsky-Korsakov made hisfamous revision and orchestration). Mussorgsky had beencommissioned to write an opera based on a drama byMengden, called The Witch, and while he never fulfilled thecommission, the motives he sketched for it were usedseveral times, finally as a choral piece in one of his last,unfinished operas, Mlada. This composite project wouldhave employed several composers, Rimsky-Korsakov,Borodin, Cui, Minkus and Mussorgsky, but thiscollaborative effort never quite materialized. But thisWitches' Sabbath music haunted Mussorgsky, perhapsbecause he never heard a performance of his orchestralversion during his lifetime. Mussorgsky also used thesemotives in his last stage work, the comic opera The Fair atSorochints?», from 1877.

Stokowski's version of the Khovanshchina fragmenttransforms it into a moving, heart-breaking statement. Hisown words, printed in the published score, say it best:

Of all the inspired music of Mussorgsky, this is oneof the most eloquent in its intensity of expression. Aman is going to his execution. He has fought forfreedom - but failed. We hear the harsh tolling ofbells, the gradual unfolding of a dark and tragicmelody, with under-currents of deep agitatedtones, all painted with somber timbres andpoignant harmonies.
Item number 8557645
Barcode 747313264520
Release date 01/08/2005
Label Naxos Records
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Leopold Stokowski
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky
Conductors Jose Serebrier
Orchestras Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Disc: 1
Traditional Slavic Christmas Music
1 A Night on Bare Mountain (arr. L. Stokowski)
2 Khovanshchina, Act IV: Entr'acte (arr. L. Stokowsk
3 A Symphonic Synthesis (arr. L. Stokowski)
4 Promenade
5 Gnomus
6 Promenade
7 Il vecchio castello (The Old Castle)
8 Bydlo [A Polish Ox-Wagon]
9 Promenade
10 Ballet de poussins dans leurs coques (Ballet of th
11 Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle
12 Catacombs - Sepulchrum Romanum; Con mortuis in lin
13 La cabane sur des pattes de poule - Baba Yaga (The
14 La grande porte de Kiev (The Great Gate of Kiev)
15 Humoresque, Op. 10, No. 2 (trans. L. Stokowski)
16 Solitude [Again, as before, alone], Op. 73, No. 6
17 Traditional Slavic Christmas Music
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