Mussorgsky – Pictures from an Exhibition


Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Hyperion Records CDA67896 | 65'58


This may well be the most lucid and musicianly Pictures on record.

Steven Osborne gives the finest recorded performance [of Visions Fugitives] I know.... [Mussorgsky's] imaginitive impressions of Hartmann's work are ... sensitively recreated by Osborne, who always seeks to give us the "why" as well as the "what" of this music.
— Limelight Magazine

Steven Osborne’s tour of Mussorgsky’s Exhibition begins with a brisk stride into the gallery to immediately invigorate at the beginning of a bold and purposeful interpretation. This is a terrific version, colourful in its descriptions of the Pictures and at times daring in choice of tempos. Osborne’s virtuosity is beyond doubt, and the clarity he brings to the music is remarkable.

Throughout this enthralling and warmly recorded performance [of Pictures], Osborne maximises colour and atmosphere, yet manages to achieve a freshness of approach without recourse to idiosyncratic mannerisms. Every movement is vividly characterised as a result of Osborne's imaginative approach to keyboard texture.... Osborne fully exploits the demonic and grotesque imagery that characterise Prokofiev's early Sarcasms and his forthright performance makes these epigrammatic and almost improvisatory pieces sound as startling now as they must have done to Russian listeners nearly a hundred years ago.
— BBC Music Magazine

This glorious new recording ... is a colossus of a disc.
— The Herald, 3 February 2013

Steven Osborne strides out with healthy determination in the opening Promenade, and then gives a superb performance that shows how atmospheric Musorgsky’s maverick piano writing can be. Rarely have the Catacombs sounded so eerily haunting as they do here; rarely have the technical oddities of the Great Gate of Kiev been harnessed to such imposing effect, architecturally grand but with a range of tone that makes the tumult of bells and the Russian Orthodox incantation fix a vivid, poignant, multifaceted image. In between, Osborne has the sensitivity and inspiration, not to mention the pianistic resources, to bring each of the pictures to life in a way that has palpable perspective and subtle characterisation.
— The Telegraph, 1 February 2013

He paces Mussorgsky's great suite faultlessly, never forcing anything, but ratcheting up the excitement notch by notch until it's all discharged in a sumptuous account of the final Great Gate of Kiev.
The Guardian, 31 January 2013

Here... is an ideal blend of fidelity to the score with a subtle and distinctive rather than overbearing musical personality. In the Mussorgsky everything is as musicianly as it is technically immaculate. What tonal delicacy and translucency in ‘Tuileries’, and listen to his finesse in the tremolandos at the end of ‘Con mortuis in lingua mortua’, something barely audible and coming as it were from a great distance. Yet in the more weighty numbers (‘Bydlo’, ‘The Great Gate at Kiev’, etc), there is power without brutality so that what so easily degenerate into a mere uproar is so finely graded that you forget the essentially percussive nature of the writing.
— Gramophone

... Resplendently startling, cobwebs blown off.... From the beginning you sense Osborne's dynamism and fresh imagination: I can't recall when I last heard the introductory Promenade sound so purposeful. But the best jewels reside in the pictures themselves.... The stately, quiet tread of The old Castle, the forceful depiction of the Jews Goldenberg and Schmuyle: these grab the attention immediately. The most striking sounds arrive with the trundling ox-cart of Bydlo, so heavy and slow in accent and speed that you feel the cart's heavy burden in every shift from note to note.
The Times, January 2013

His care over the smallest details of phrasing and articulation throughout suggests a highly intelligent, thoughtful interpretation that aims to be more than just a showy series of programmatic events. In his hands it becomes a proper piece of music, and when the Promenade theme returns towards the end of the final painting, The Great Gate of Kiev, it’s an extremely satisfying moment of thematic recapitulation.... It’s not even the end of January and we already have another one of our Discs of the Year!
Presto Classical, 21 January 2013

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Mussorgsky - Pictures from an Exhibition
Promenade 1
Promenade 2
The Old Castle (Il vecchio castello)
Promenade 3
Tuileries. Children quarrelling after play
Bydlo (A Polish Ox-Cart)
Promenade 4
Ballet of the unhatched chicks
Two Polish Jews, one rich, one poor (Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle)
Promenade 5
Limoges, the market place
Catacombae. Sepulchrum Romanum
Con mortuis in lingua mortua
Baba yaga (The hut on fowl's legs)
The Great Gate of Kiev

Prokofiev - Sarcasms op.17
Allegro rubato
Allegro precipitato

Prokofiev - Visions fugitives op.22
Molto giocoso
Con eleganza
Allegretto tranquillo
Con vivacita
Assai moderato
Con una dolce lentezza
Presto agitatissimo e molto accentuato