Musorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition; Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4
London Symphony Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda
LSO Live LSO0810 (hybrid CD/SACD) 74.18 mins
When did Tchaikovsky 4 become more of a lure than Ravel’s peerless orchestration of Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition? That’s how the cover of this latest LSO Live release sees it, with ‘Tchaikovsky’ in giant letters and ‘Musorgsky’ in tiny ones. Yet the top interpretation of these two is unquestionably Noseda’s vivid tableaux, all connected as they should be with little or no slack in between. It’s what I was looking for when I presented a Radio 3 Building a Library on all versions other than the piano original some years back; Mariss Jansons’s Oslo Philharmonic recording emerged as the lead recommendation, but I’m certain that LSO/Noseda would be the one now. All orchestral soloists from trumpet to alto saxophone and tuba deserve a credit – you can just about work out who did what from the list in the booklet – and the ensembles, whether perky woodwind as squabbling French kids and chick dancers at dazzlingly articulated fast speeds, brass or soulful strings painting impressionist colours for ‘The Old Castle’, are superb. Above all it’s the continuity that counts, essential because of the thematic connections Musorgsky often makes between promenades and pictures; from the plunge through the cracked looking glass to see the gallery-goer transformed as ‘Gnomus’, we can trust in Noseda to make all those links.
If the Tchaikovsky symphony comes a close second for me, it’s because the limping waltz after the opening fanfares could do with a bit more animation; even this epic movement is forged from dance-forms. But there’s fabulous light, quiet pizzicato playing in a dream of a scherzo and Noseda knows exactly how to land the big climaxes. Dryish Barbican sound only lets the innate glow of the orchestra emerge all the stronger.