How to Build a Classical CD Collection

16. Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition & Night on the Bare Mountain. / Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia & Polovtsian Dances

Russian musical nationalism was dominated by a group of five composers, pleased to adopt the descriptive title The Mighty Handful. Led by Balakirev, the only professional musician among them at first, the group included the naval officer Rimsky-Korsakov, the alcoholic civil servant Mussorgsky, Borodin, a distinguished professor of chemistry, and Cui, an expert on military fortification. Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, a set of piano pieces, here remarkably and vividly arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel, tour an exhibition of the work of an artist friend of the composer. The trumpet leads the viewer from exhibit to exhibit, to the old Castle, with its saxophone-playing troubadour, to the market-place at Limoges, with its gossiping old women, to the sinister catacombs and to the Great Gate of Kiev, a design for a triumphal arch and a triumphant end to the suite. Night on Bare Mountain is a musical account of a witches' sabbath on mid-summer eve. Borodin provides a musical picture of travellers in the heartlands of Central Asia and exotic dances from his opera Prince Igor.

Recommended recording
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestrated by Ravel) & Night on the Bare Mountain. Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia & Polovtsian Dances, with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra under Daniel Nazareth. Naxos 8.550051

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