Mussorgsky/Ravel

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mussorgsky/Ravel
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Pictures at an Exhibition
PERFORMER: Ivo Pogorelich (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 437 667-2
You expect unusual interpretations from Pogorelich and since Mussorgsky’s Pictures offer great opportunities for colourful characterisation and keyboard wizardry, anticipation runs high. His approach turns out to be surprisingly orthodox, though he’s unusually slow in ‘Il vecchio castello’, ekes out ‘Les Tuileries’, making it anaemic, and is disconcertingly analytical in the portrait of two Jews. The ox wagon certainly lumbers with impressive weight, the unhatched chicks jig about with delightful lightness, and there’s spectacular control of soft sounds in ‘Con mortuis in lingua mortua’. But the overall impression is of clinical technical perfection and the piano sound, superbly recorded though it is, strikes hard and cold.

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Pogorelich lives up fully to his reputation for eccentricity in the Ravel waltzes. Technically, again, the playing is astounding, and it’s fascinating to hear his acute placing of quiet sounds in particular. But it seems as if he is putting the music under a microscope to show how precise he can be, how supremely in command of his nerves. Tracks 19 and 21 are particularly slow. The pieces should flutter and swoon like playful wraiths. Nothing dances here, though, and instead of evocation we’re left with something abstract. Adrian Jack