Modeste Mussorgsky: Unorthodox music review – opera vivacity and formidable panache | Classical music

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Modest Mussorgsky is undoubtedly one of the greatest Russian composers of the 19th century, but it has never been easy to get a clear idea of ​​his unruly production. Well-meaning later composers – Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel, Shostakovich – reorganized his most famous works, attempting to impose civilized accessibility on music that is anything but elegant and accommodating, and often obscured radicalism and originality. of his works in the process.

Modest Mussorgsky: Unorthodox Music album cover

Soprano Claire Stand and pianist Christophe glynnThe approach of this eccentric genius passes through his piano music and about sixty songs. They spent a year going through them all before creating the sequence that appears on this record, following the pattern of their previous collections for Avie by Percy Grainger and Edvard Grieg. The selection includes numbers from all three song cycles by Mussorgsky, The Nursery, Sunless and Songs and Dances of Death, as well as stand-alone arrangements and piano pieces.

They call the result “a song from the cradle to the grave,” describing the arc of a woman’s life, beginning in the manger and moving from youth and marriage to final solitude. As they point out in their liner notes, unlike Mussorgsky’s operas, which contain few meaningful female characters, his songs frequently take a female perspective, although nowadays they are more often associated with male singers.

Booth brings every song to life with opera vivacity, whether it’s the satirical The Goat with which the record opens, the sadness of mourning in The Leaves Rustled Softly, or the desolation of On the River, by Sunless. Each of them becomes a miniature scene, while the piano pieces that Glynn places between them sometimes offer contrast, sometimes reinforcement. The whole is a joy, brilliantly designed and presented with a formidable panache.

The other choice of the week

One of the piano pieces that Glynn includes is Cum Mortuis in Lingua Mortua, a movement from Mussorgsky’s best-known work, Pictures at an Exhibition, and the entire work is included in Alexandre krichel‘s recital for Berlin Classics. The performance is straightforward and efficient, without competing with the best versions already available, such as those of Sviatoslav Richter, Mikhail Pletnev or Steven Osborne. But it is the other major work of Krichel’s record – the Second Suite by George Enescu – that arouses curiosity. Written at the very beginning of the 20th century in Paris, where it won a competition whose judges included Debussy, D’Indy and Reynaldo Hahn, the sequel is certainly a well-bred piece of French neoclassicism, with enough keyboard flamboyance to set Krichel through his footsteps.


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