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Pictures at an Exhibition

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Leopold Stokowski was not only one of the twentieth century' greatest conductors, he was also an inveterate transcriber of music for the symphony orchestra, making some two hundred orchestral arrangements of works which had started life in other forms. Du
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 21, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B0009JVOKM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,775 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 24, 2005
Format: Audio CD
There will be pecksniffs who decry this issue of orchestral transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski. One suspects many of them will probably secretly listen to it and love it, although they wouldn't admit it publicly. It is fashionable these days to hew to the purist line about a composer's original intentions and all that. And, of course, that proscribes such crass things as richly romantic orchestrations of piano music or performances of 'opera without words,' both of which are featured here. Never mind. There are those of us who revel in these things when they are done well, and this issue is heaven-sent for us (and for the hypocrites who claim not to like such things).

Stokowski made over 200 orchestral transcriptions and they often were featured on his programs with the Philadelphia Orchestra during his tenure as its music director (1912-1938). His audiences loved them. During his lifetime he was generally the only conductor who performed them, but since his death they have been heard more often in orchestral programs and recordings. This CD was done under the auspices of the Leopold Stokowski Society. The first of the 'symphonic transcriptions' featured on this CD is Mussorgsky's 'Night on Bare Mountain' in the version made famous by its appearance in Disney's 'Fantasia.' Slightly shorter than Mussorgsky's original, it remains fairly close to Mussorgsky's own orchestration. And it is played beautifully here by José' Serebrier and the Bournemouth Symphony. Serebrier was, for a time, Stokowski's assistant during Stoky's tenure with the American Symphony Orchestra and he certainly absorbed the maestro's approach. (One wonders if he had the BSO strings use free, rather than synchronized, bowing as Stoky did with his Philadelphians.
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Format: Audio CD
One of my favorite episodes of BUGS BUNNY (perhaps my only favorite, I was never a big LOONEY TOONS fan) has Bugs getting in trouble while singing the song "April Showers" in the presence of an opera star. The man finds the rabbit annoying, and Bugs being Bugs decides to get the best of him. On an evening when the buffoon is singing, Bugs dons a wig that resembles the hair style of a great conductor, a caricature of Leopold Stokowski. As soon as Bugs enters the area everyone is all a buzz because Leopold has arrived. Bugs grabs the baton and begins conducting. I was probably twelve or thirteen at the time, and I felt rather sophisticated because I knew who Leopold was other than one of the husbands of Gloria Vanderbilt.

Stokowski was one of the most famous conductors of his day, and he was a well known musical arranger as well. His day was a time when symphony orchestras had regular arrangers who transcribed famous keyboard pieces for orchestra. They somewhat fell out of fashion in the 1970's but today there seems to be a renewed interest in some of transcriptions, recognizing the contributions of the musical arrangers. This release by Naxos has some of Stokowski's arrangements of some of Mussorgsky's music as well as a few pieces by Tchaikovsky and an arrangement of Slavic Christmas music.

Overall, this is an interesting disc. The arrangement of "Night on Bald Mountain" is not as fulsome as the more familiar Rimsky-Korsakov orchestration, but the differences in the two do illustrate the interesting tidbits on the score. The same can be said for his orchestration of "Pictures at an Exhibition.
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Format: Audio CD
For half the price of at least two competing labels that I know of, you can have this recording of Stokowski's most beloved transciptions. I bought this release mainly for the "Symphonic Synthesis" which Stokowski created to bring more popularity to the massive complete opera. You get 24 minutes of shimmering sound, competing with anything in the symphonic genre. In fact everything sounds great on this disc. Meastro Serebrier,(a protege and life long friend of Stokowski) the Bournemouth Symphony, and the engineers are all in top form and dedicated. It is interesting to compare the differences of the Stokowski arrangements. He comes off more horrific than Rimsky-Korsakov on "Night on Bare Mountain", just have a listen to those exagerated screeches of brass. In "Pictures" Stokowski in his own words stated he wanted to take Ravels French out of the work and give it a more Russian feel. Balance, tempo, and detail in specific passages of each picture may or may not achieve this. I do think his version is more spacious overall, and less congested in the concluding "Great Gate of Kiev". Stokowski eliminates two annoying pictures stating he didn't think the composer wrote them in the score anyway! Recall that Rimsky-Korsakov's original piano version included them. Were they genuine? Three miniature bonus works are included. Most interesting is the Stokowski composition "Tradional Slavic Christmas Music" based on Slavic themes, is brief leaving one wanting for more.
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Format: Audio CD
This is one of the most extraordinary recordings of the decade, as announced by Felipe Marsans in his review in Diario Las Americas. The sound of this demonstration recording is spectacular! The performances are extraordinary, inspired,

magnificent from the opening track (Night on Bold Mountain) to the unexpected final track: an "original" work by Leopold Stokowski, based on a known ancient Christmas tune. The little Tchaikovsky item is something to make the listener cry, as is the Entre'Acte from Mussorgsky's opera Khovantchina. The Boris

is a masterpiece, and the performance is incredible in every sense. The Stokowski orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition, quite different from Ravel's and more Russian and tru to the original, will blow you off the room. I can't wait for the multy-channel versions to be released, on SACD and DVD Audio.

Extraordinary!

Stephen Bradbury

Oxford, UK
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