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Reviews: Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition etc. - Reiner

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Reviews: 7

Review by tream October 9, 2004 (3 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Of the Living Stereo series I've hear so far, this is an optional rather than mandatory or essential disc (the othe Reiners are essential). The reading of "Pictures", the major work on this disc, has some interesting details but isn't likely to be your first choice. However, you will be blown away by the playing of the Chicago Symphony, and the "fillers" are quite substantial. So, overall, a disc you ought to get. The sound isn't quite at the level of the Reiner Strauss disc and certainly not at the level of the Munch/Boston recordings (Daphis & Chloe and Saint Saens Symphony 3) but still very fine.

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Review by flyingdutchman October 12, 2004 (9 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I can quite honestly say that I disagree most competely with the previous review. This is an absolutely vital must-buy for anyone wanting to hear how these should sound. Performance is beyond any that came before or after and sound is the best I have ever heard these. I have the Living Stereo Cd, the XRCD, and this. The 3-channel sound is so much better than either of the other two and for anyone to evaluate these less than 5 star across the board really needs to give this recording another chance.

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Review by Ovation November 22, 2004 (4 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Though I've heard several performances of Pictures at an Exhibition, I've not had a recording of it until now and I have to say it's superb. I've recently begun to better appreciate Russian composers and this is a recording that only increases my estimation of Russian music. For a vintage recording, the sonics are top notch. A must have in anyone's collection.

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Review by Ivymike October 7, 2005 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
A much-desired Shaded Dog transfer here.

The tape, recorded on 3-track, 1/2" tape in December 1957, is in excellent condition and the transfer first-rate. The tape was transferred at a high level; beware the extreme dynamics here. Setting your volume levels so that the ppp passages are easily heard will find your ears bleeding and your neighbors pounding on the walls during the fff passages near the end of the work.

Detail is extraordinary; listen to the sounds of pages being turned in the the players' scores and even to their breathing during some of the more intense moments. Bass response is excellent, giving no idea of the age of the master. The only real indictation that it is five decades old is the moderate level of background tape hiss.

The performance is fine, although I must admit I prefer that of the 1966 Von Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic. Heresy? I don't know, but I do know I have and enjoy both in my collection.

The filler material is generous and well-recorded. I am particularly fond of Reiner's reading of "Night on Bald Mountain". It is prickly, angry, and violent. Great stuff, and watch out for that bass drum and tam-tam at the climax!

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Review by mupp August 31, 2006 (0 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I am a little more critical to this album. Ok, it is from 1957, but you can hear that. It is quite noisy. It is not at all in level with modern DSD recordings.

I have a copy of this piece on vinyl from 1971 with Orchestra Natianal de l'Opera de Monte-Carlo, and I must say I prefer the vinyl verson to this SACD both regarding the performance and the sonics. The living stereo version sound like march music - it has too steady beat to be really enjoyable. But, of course this is a matter of taste.

Note, I have not a multi-channel system. This is only a review of the stereo track.

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Review by threerandot July 6, 2007 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The title of this disc indicates that these are "Russian Showpieces" and Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform these works with that approach in mind.

The disc opens with the famous "Pictures at an exhibition". It begins with a straight-forward promenade and then the Gnomus only increasing the tension slightly. French horns and winds mark the second promenade and carry us into the Il vecchio costello, a highlight with a warm alto sax solo. The third promenade features big brass and winds. Tuileries picks up the energy more with fast winds, big brass, supple strings and chimes. Bydlo is a highlight in this performance with an impressive tenor tuba solo that comes right into your living room. Basses are caught nicely. I wish the snare drum was further back in the mix, however. The next Promenade paints a darker mood, leading right into the jocular Ballet of the Chicks in their shells with excellent playing from all sections. Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle features brash strings and excellent trumpet work. The Marketplace is painted with frantic strings, horns and percussion and the Catacombs features the most impressive brass playing up to this point. But Reiner seems to be holding the reigns in, even at this late point in the music. Con mortuis features more restraint, but things get going in Hut on Fowl's Legs. The Great Gate features brass playing more in the style of a march band, than perhaps a Bach Chorale. Still, this leads to an exciting climax. Although Reiner and the CSO are an excellent team, they do not stop to capture the more colorful sounds that are embedded throughout this music. Reiner seems more interested in pushing ahead to the climaxes. The closing moments are memorable, however.

Tchiakovsky's March Miniature is a playful little piece with plenty of charming playing and is an easy winner on this disc. The sound is only in two-channel on this disc, as this was the way it was originally recorded.

Borodin's Polovtsian March is another piece with plenty of bombast and excitement and Reiner seems more at home with this work.

The Marche Slave by Tchaikovsky is definitely a highlight. Reiner doesn't seem so rushed and captures the lively Russian feeling. Sound seems a little warmer here than elsewhere on the disc as well.

The Colas Breugnon, Op.24 Overture by Kabalevsky is no less impressive than the Marche Slave and features some of the more colorful playing and sound throughout this disc. Plenty of bombast as well.

The disc closes with Glinka's Russlan and Ludmilla Overture in what is really a fun piece to close this disc. This is a lively and fun performance that is sure to please. Again, much warmer sound in the last few items of this disc.

The Pictures At an Exhibition on this disc is obviously the main selling point and I wish that the sound quality was a little better at capturing the more subtle nuances. Reiner seems to play up a more militant view of the score and doesn't linger anywhere in the score for long. Personally, I prefer Karajan's digital recording on DG. Still, with its faults, there is much to enjoy in Reiner's performance, even if I feel it doesn't merit top marks. I seem to enjoy Reiner playing the remaining works a little more than his approach to the pictures. The remaining works are all sparking performances for the most part that make enjoyable fill-ups. Recommended with reservations.

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Review by tin man October 23, 2007 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I like this title the best among a few of Pictures at an Exhibition records, CDs and SACDs I have. The music simply moves me every time I listen to it. Yes, sonic wise it is not the best due to high tape hiss from the master but the music of this recording is first rate. Not too many current orchestra can play at the same level as Reiner and CSO back then. Even the Mobile Fidelity Slatkin is not at the same level of musicianship at Reiner and CSO. I really appreciate RCA is remastering their golden age recordings to SACD and I enjoy everyone of them I pruchased. Please keep them coming.

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