Night on the Bare Mountain; From Memories of Childhood; Pictures at an Exhibition
Evgeny Samoyloff (piano)
Quartz QTZ2135 73:51 mins
Evgeny Samoyloff presents two of Musorgsky’s ‘greatest hits’ in a programme strongly weighted towards the world of childhood. Fascinated by the candour and raw emotions of children, Musorgsky made several attempts to write albums of pieces depicting childhood scenes. Largely from these, Samoyloff has compiled a ‘cycle of eight pieces’, including a number completed by other hands (a point not made clear in the booklet note), which he performs with variable success. His interpretation of ‘The Seamstress’, clearly chuffed by her new-fangled sewing machine – one can even hear how it slows down with her treadle (shades of Schubert’s Gretchen) – is delightful. But his playing ‘Nurse and I’ as if to depict a toddling child is a misfire – it too readily suggests the awkward fumble of an amateur pianist. This does no favours to Samoyloff as it comes immediately after the obstacle course presented by the challenging piano arrangement (by Konstantin Chernov) of Night on The Bare Mountain; stripped of the thrill of orchestral colour, this appears a poor substitute for the original.
Pictures gets a decent performance which would have impressed in a concert. Samoyloff takes some liberties with the music, for instance adding trills and short chromatic slides to ‘Gnomus’. So, to a lesser extent, does Mikhail Pletnev in his DG recording, but it has to be said Pletnev is the more formidable pianist both in technique and in musicianship. And those who want the score in its unadulterated form may prefer Steven Osborne (Hyperion) or Evgeny Kissin (RCA).