"Few pianists have tackled recording the original piano version of Mussorgsky's perennially fascinating suite, simply because the famous recording of Sviatoslav Richter seemed impossible to equal-- this despite the recording's technical flaws (it was after all recorded live and it sounds it). But those who want an equally masterful rendition of the work need look no further than this excellent Mercury disk. A different interpretation in ways than Richter's, but Byron Janis' vision of the work is no less sure or authoritative, and his pianism is brilliant. AND the recording quality is much MUCH better! And on the same disk -- after a pair of bonus Chopin waltzes -- one has the Antal Dorati/Minneapolis version of the Ravel orchestration: despite a few quibbles about tempo here and there, overall this is among the very best renditions on disc, and some of the pieces are the best ever -- from the opening grandeur of "Promenade" to the ballet of the chicks in their shells, from "Bydlo" to a particularly exciting and fierce "Hut of Baba Yaga"-- a fine version, richly recorded. A highly recommended disc."
Double Your Pleasure!
J Keistler | Lake Jackson, Texas USA | 12/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I waited years for these recordings to be released on CD. My favorite "Pictures" was this Dorati recording, and this recording by Janis is pure pleasure. We all know that superlative performance can be compromised so very easily by poor production. The restoration of the Living Presence sound reinforces the vision of its creators. As with the other Mercury recordings, this CD places the listener in the audience, in the hall, to an uncanny degree. How many recordings have we all purchased that placed us somewhere in the orchestra rather than the audience!This is indeed rosette-level listening and a must-have for anyone's shelf!"
A Picturesque "Pictures."
Yi-Peng | Singapore | 11/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those who want a CD that contains both piano and orchestral versions of Mussorgsky's Pictures, this is the best available currently in the market and deserves a Rosette in addition to three stars by the Penguin Guide. Janis is a brilliant pianist, and he manages to capture the essence of Mussorgsky's work in his performance in one foul swoop. He varies the mood of each Promenade to link pictures together, and he can characterise the pictures well, making you see them jumping out at you. The Gnomus and Catacomba pictures have never sounded threatening, and the Old Castle forboding. The remaining pictures are all well done and are worth half the price of this CD alone. Janis definitely leaves you on the edge of your seat, and the excellent vintage remastering enables the vintage Mercury quality to shine through excellently. In short, this is one of the best recorded piano versions of Pictures.The disc is appropriately coupled to the orchestral version of the score, brilliantly played by Antal Dorati and the Minesota Orchestra. The tempi feel just right, except in Limoges: The Market Place where it is slightly slower than what we expect. Anyway, each picture, as in Janis' coupled piano version, can spring out at you with majestic force, as in the Great Gate at Kiev. Ravel's masterly orchestration is able to shine here, and at times echoes of his other orchestral masterworks can remain in the memory of the listener, to remind us of his brilliant orchestral writing. The orchestra plays sumptuously with feeling, and it feels that the music is in its blood. Indeed, this interpretation makes up the other half-price of this CD, and it is well worth it., with the added bonus of vintage Mercury recording.Overall, if there was a coupling of the work that listeners seek for both the piano and orchestral versions, then this CD is the choice for you."
Why own anything else???
TchaikJP | Houston, TX United States | 09/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is little to say about this recording, becuase you will most likely love it or hate it- and regardless, you should own it if not for the individuality of style in an overdone work, but for the fact that this CD is a great deal- both a great Piano performance and a great Orchestral performance on the same disk! Pictures has been recorded buy almost everyone, so there are of course a MULTITUDE of good recordings, as well as a great many mediocre ones, I'm sure. However this one is neither good, nor mediocre- it is GREAT: great in its uniqueness, it is never commonplace, and the sound of the orchestra is beautiful in that you can hear every instrument. Though this may be against some tastes, it is truly remarkable. Byron Janis is phenomenal, his interpretation brings forth life in the "pictures", and mercury's sound enhances his piano's power! It is like your head is in the piano. Dorati is a master in controlling the orchestra's dynamics, its amazing how powerful it can be, both soft and loud. Mercury's sound of course brings Dorati's wonderful artistry to us in the clearest, most immediate sound. BAM!-In-your-face sound. Also tempting is the wonderful "FAT" liner notes that Mercury always lavishly provides. Just reading these liner notes can put a listener on his right foot into the world of musicology, and the wonderful influences behind the power of the work. For me, I'd pay the price of the entire CD for just the notes if I had to. In short, in owning this you are opening yourself up to great music, great interpretation (in what to do with a played-to-death work), and... you might evev learn something."
Colors in sound
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 07/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have owned this CD for a decade, and never cease to marvel at its brilliance; Byron Janis' interpretation of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" is stunning, as if he were painting with the piano keys, producing more colorations from his instrument then I knew were possible. From the most subtle tones to percussive and robust, Janis has total mastery of this difficult composition, which was intended for solo piano, though we rarely hear it performed in this way anymore. Composed in 1874 after Moussorgsky visited the exhibit of a friend, Victor Hartmann, it wasn't until 1923 that Ravel was asked by Serge Koussevitsky to orchestrate it, and in tracks 18-32, we hear this familiar version with Antal Dorati conducting the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in a vigorous performance.
In between these two marvelous pieces, we get the Chopin selections, exquisitely played by Janis, and the "Waltz in A Minor" has been a long time favorite of mine; both were recorded in Russia in 1962, tracks 1-15 were recorded in 1961, and tracks 18-32 in 1959. Mercury "Living Presence" has done some excellent re-mastering for older classical music, and this CD is certainly a fine example of their technological wizardry, with a nice crisp sound. The booklet insert has liner notes by Byron Janis, and an explanation of each of the ten "Pictures", which are woven together with a "Promenade" theme. Total playing time is 66'09. This is one of the best, and certainly one of the most interesting, recordings in my collection. "