Last week I did not have a change to play music home but during this weekend I eventually had a change to spin some records. I bought last week a record that I was hunting for a while and was eagerly expected to hear it. It was Nicolay Golovanov’s performance of Mussorgsky “Night on Bald Mountain”. Whoever knows Golovanov’s craziness would understand my expectations…
Unfortunately my expectations were not fulfilled. The Golovanov’s “Night…” was melodic and musical, almost like the Stokovsky version… Knowing quite a few good performances of the “Night…” and deeply inside considering Mussorgsky as one of the greatest natural-gifted composer ever was born, I wondering if I ever will be able to find a good performance of the Rimksy-Korsakov’s orchestrated Mussorgsky “Night on Bald Mountain”.
I think the person who broke my virginity about the Mussorgsky “Night on Bald Mountain” was Claudio Abbado, and since I head what he did with this work any other interpretations of the “Night…” become too bored to me.
I remember how it started. It was 1999; summer, Sunday and I stooped by in Cambridge’s “The Stereo Jack” – a wonderful jazz record shop. I picked the few records and a CD “Claudio Abbado conducting Mussorgsky” with LSO. At that time I has a wonderful car playback (Utopia speakers, very properly installed and vacuum tube amplification – everything very nicely sounding). While I was maneuvering out of the parking lot I put the Abbado’s CD in and … was shocked from the very first accords how phenomenally different and insultingly wonderful it was. Abbado was crashing through very complex for performing Mussorgsky’s choral peaces with a force of a good size tornado and with a genteelness and confidence of mama-lion who knows that she has no natural enemies in Serengeti. The London’s Symphony Chorus was phenomenal as well, it is shame that Russian can’t sing so “interestingly”.
I tell you that it was so good that I parked my car back and spent the entire hour sitting in my car, listening the Abbado’s Mussorgsky. However, the biggest hit was the cut with “Night on Bald Mountain”. At that time I did not read the CD’s notes (hate listening and reading) and did not know that Abbado performed the original, not edited by Rimksy-Korsakov version. I thought that it was juts an idiosyncratic Abbado’s interpretation and I was listening keeping admitting for myself not brilliant and smart it was. Eventually I learned way tit was, got the LPs of this CD and few of them (including a sealed one) permanently lent on my shelf with the best performances ever.
So, how Mussorgsky should sound? Get Richter’s performance of the “Pictures” in Sofia for piano music. If you want to hear the symphonic Mussorgsky then get Abbado with LSO. Make it loud! It is an amassing ride!
Romy the Cat
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche