From the arresting brassy opening to a conclusion that suggests there are further stories to be told, this Scheherazade thrills and seduces in equal measure, captured in tangible and vivid recorded sound. The Santa Cecilia Orchestra (Carlo Maria Parazzoli, concertmaster, the begetter of the tales) is in top form – powerful, sensitive and swaggering, with numerous bewitching solos threaded throughout the whole – fully responsive to Antonio Pappano’s instinct for drama, voluptuousness, tempo and phrasal flexibility (without losing this Suite’s “symphonic” aspirations), generous portrayals, and impassioned climaxes; waves ridden, intimacies shared, core repertoire new-minted. Much to enjoy and appreciate, as there also is in the two versions of A Night on Bare Mountain, whether Mussorgsky’s original scoring and design – untutored, raw, orchestration textbooks ignored – for which Pappano and his forces are unstinting and uninhibited, creating a devil worshipper’s delight; or, equally satanic and hair-raising, the 1880 choral version (prepared by Vissarion Shebalin, 1930) for Sorochyntsi Fair. Having these stunners side-by-side informs how Rimsky concocted his familiar adaptation of Night (correcting Mussorgsky in masterly fashion). Warner Classics 54197933691 is released on March 22 and not to be missed.

Mussorgsky: A Night on the Bare Mountain

  • 1867 Version
  • 1880 Version for chorus, children’s chorus, bass and orchestra