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Mussorgsky but not Ravel


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Author Topic: Mussorgsky but not Ravel  (Read 169 times)
Gauk
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« on: November 11, 2017, 03:34:53 pm »

Back in the days before the internet, when my main source of music was BBC Radio 3, I conceived an interest in the alternative orchestrations of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition", given that it was so rarely one got a chance to hear anything other than the Ravel version. I managed to capture a couple on tape, but it was a rare event.

So I thought it would be interesting to see how many orchestrations I could track down today on YouTube. The answer is: quite a few. Here are some links; not a complete list. I exclude versions for organ (many), versions for wind band or wind ensemble (also numerous), and peculiar instrumental arrangements like guitar, or trombone and piano (!).

Tushmalov:


This was the first ever orchestration. Tushmalov was a pupil of Rimsky - there is no R-K version, surprisingly.

Wood:


Sir Henry Wood's 1915 orchestration was the first after Tushmalov.

Funtek:


Gorchakov:


Cailliet:


Stokowski:


Ashkenazy:


Saraste:


Saraste's version is actually a compilation of Funtek and Gorchakov.

Cohen (Strings):


Leonard (Pf & orch.)


This is a woefully bad performance.

Naoumoff (Pf & orch)



Gamley (finale only):


I include this last one, despite it being only one movement, because my father had it on an old LP, and for YEARS I wondered whose orchestration it was. At last I've found out! It adds men's voices and organ into the mix. Quite over-the-top but needs to be heard.

There is also a version by Leonard Slatkin in which each picture is clipped from a different orchestration; done for a BBC documentary:


Probably my favourite is the Stokowski, but really, I prefer the piano original to all of them.

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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2017, 04:31:04 pm »

but really, I prefer the piano original to all of them.


Indeed Smiley) Dear old Modeste never gave any hint that it was any kind of 'unfinished' orchestral work... and as you rightly say, his faithful collaborator Rimsky never took on such a project Smiley
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relm1
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« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2017, 12:50:18 am »

but really, I prefer the piano original to all of them.


Indeed Smiley) Dear old Modeste never gave any hint that it was any kind of 'unfinished' orchestral work... and as you rightly say, his faithful collaborator Rimsky never took on such a project Smiley

There are more than 600 orchestrations of this fabulous work (including one by yours truly which lies somewhere between Tushmalov and Ravel and includes an organ in the final moments).  Someone actually has a catalog of all extant orchestrations.  The work is so imaginative that many composers "hear" a version of this work and take it upon themselves to orchestrate it themselves.  It would have been very interesting to know how Mussorgsky would have orchestrated it because he did conceive of it orchestrally (he has a crescendo in a whole note on the piano which makes sense only if he intended to orchestrate it).  By far Ravel's magnificent treatment of this material deserves its place as "The" orchestration.  It casts a long shadow on anyone attempting to orchestrate this after him.  But he also removed some movements that do seem superfluous but ignores Mussorgsky's intention.  In my opinion he greatly enhanced the work by removing some of the extra promenade movements though some orchestrators and arrangers felt restoring them was more truthful.  Ashkenazy has a very fine orchestration which most will consider more Russian than French so also very suitable.  In my opinion, the merger of French and Russian produced some of the very finest works so the mixture of the French refinement with the Russian coarseness is perfect.  Sort of like how an excellent meal or wine is balanced between fruitiness and tartness.

If anyone is interested in hearing, here is an excerpt from my version:
http://picosong.com/wnby9

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Gauk
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« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2017, 08:22:51 am »

I didn't mention jazz and rock versions. Of the latter, the best known is that by Emerson Lake and Palmer from way back in the days of 70s prog rock, but there is also a more recent one by the German group Mekong Delta. Just listening to the introduction and first promenade (I didn't have the stamina for any more) of the Mekong Delta version shows the limitations. It's a very literal reading, but the use of electric guitars robs the music of any character.
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shamus
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« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2017, 12:30:44 am »

Thanks, a very interesting thread, I had tried to collect them, in my quasi-youth, and agree that the original piano version has so many rewards all by itself. Of the rest, and beyond the Ravel, I enjoy the Naoumoff the best because I am a pf cto nut. The others will be fun to check out.
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Gauk
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« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2017, 10:47:53 am »

Thanks, a very interesting thread, I had tried to collect them, in my quasi-youth, and agree that the original piano version has so many rewards all by itself. Of the rest, and beyond the Ravel, I enjoy the Naoumoff the best because I am a pf cto nut. The others will be fun to check out.

There is also a YouTube video of the Naoumoff version in a two-piano guise. Personally, I think the extra lines added by Naoumoff are quite out of keeping. I can see the potential of a two-piano version, thinking of the various versions of Busoni's Fantasia Contrapuntistica, but it would be better to use the second piano to thicken the textures rather than adding the weird excursions that Naoumoff overlays.
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christopher
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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2017, 09:55:41 am »

but really, I prefer the piano original to all of them.


Indeed Smiley) Dear old Modeste never gave any hint that it was any kind of 'unfinished' orchestral work... and as you rightly say, his faithful collaborator Rimsky never took on such a project Smiley

There are more than 600 orchestrations of this fabulous work (including one by yours truly which lies somewhere between Tushmalov and Ravel and includes an organ in the final moments)....
If anyone is interested in hearing, here is an excerpt from my version:
http://picosong.com/wnby9


Hello Relm1 - I really like your version of the Catacombs, it is very atmospheric.  Did you orchestrate the whole work?   Is it available to buy or download anywhere?  Please do tell us more, and about yourself as well!
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relm1
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2017, 02:05:50 am »

but really, I prefer the piano original to all of them.


Indeed Smiley) Dear old Modeste never gave any hint that it was any kind of 'unfinished' orchestral work... and as you rightly say, his faithful collaborator Rimsky never took on such a project Smiley

There are more than 600 orchestrations of this fabulous work (including one by yours truly which lies somewhere between Tushmalov and Ravel and includes an organ in the final moments)....
If anyone is interested in hearing, here is an excerpt from my version:
http://picosong.com/wnby9


Hello Relm1 - I really like your version of the Catacombs, it is very atmospheric.  Did you orchestrate the whole work?   Is it available to buy or download anywhere?  Please do tell us more, and about yourself as well!

Thank you Christopher.  Yes the whole work was orchestrated but truthfully, the performance wasn't very good and I am not comfortable sharing it all.  Lot's of cracked notes and inconsistent rhythms.  I performed the bass trombone part in the premiere performance and mixed the recording.  Overall it wasn't horrible but isn't what I would consider reflective of my intentions.  My orchestration is 33 minutes long and is scored for 3.3.3.3/4.3.3.1/timp+3/hp/celesta/organ (ad lib)/strings.  I adore the Ravel version but also wanted to make some practical changes.  I simplified some of the orchestration so it would be more playable and less demanding (Ravel does some very complex rhythms and double/triple stops that aren't fully necessary unless you have a suburb orchestra).  In Bydlo, the melody is given to a tuba in a very high register (typically requiring the performer to switch to a euphonium to hit the very high G# notes).  For me, I have the first phrase to the tuba and let the first horn pick up the higher notes.  It is the same note but fits their range better.  So why did Ravel put a tuba in that role?  He either knew that particular tubist could nail it or wanted the note to sound off.  I didn't want that.  I wanted more security.  I will tell you since I was the orchestrator and bass trombonist who sat next to the tuba that they were terrified of what Ravel wanted so my version is more tuba friendly while keeping the same musical intention.  As far as my background, I have a masters degree in composition and have orchestrated or arranged many works.  I have my own version of Bach's fantastic Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for orchestra and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in B minor that has been performed in concert.  This week my suite of themes of Puccini operas is being performed in concert.  I am currently working on my Symphony No. 2. 
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christopher
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« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2017, 03:17:50 pm »

Thank you Christopher.  Yes the whole work was orchestrated but truthfully, the performance wasn't very good and I am not comfortable sharing it all.  Lot's of cracked notes and inconsistent rhythms.  I performed the bass trombone part in the premiere performance and mixed the recording.  Overall it wasn't horrible but isn't what I would consider reflective of my intentions.  My orchestration is 33 minutes long and is scored for 3.3.3.3/4.3.3.1/timp+3/hp/celesta/organ (ad lib)/strings.  I adore the Ravel version but also wanted to make some practical changes.  I simplified some of the orchestration so it would be more playable and less demanding (Ravel does some very complex rhythms and double/triple stops that aren't fully necessary unless you have a suburb orchestra).  In Bydlo, the melody is given to a tuba in a very high register (typically requiring the performer to switch to a euphonium to hit the very high G# notes).  For me, I have the first phrase to the tuba and let the first horn pick up the higher notes.  It is the same note but fits their range better.  So why did Ravel put a tuba in that role?  He either knew that particular tubist could nail it or wanted the note to sound off.  I didn't want that.  I wanted more security.  I will tell you since I was the orchestrator and bass trombonist who sat next to the tuba that they were terrified of what Ravel wanted so my version is more tuba friendly while keeping the same musical intention.  As far as my background, I have a masters degree in composition and have orchestrated or arranged many works.  I have my own version of Bach's fantastic Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for orchestra and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in B minor that has been performed in concert.  This week my suite of themes of Puccini operas is being performed in concert.  I am currently working on my Symphony No. 2.  

Thanks for this Relm1 - that's really interesting, especially about Ravel's torture of the tuba players!  Am I allowed to ask your name?  I will definitely look out for your music.
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christopher
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« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2017, 02:03:31 am »

but really, I prefer the piano original to all of them.


Indeed Smiley) Dear old Modeste never gave any hint that it was any kind of 'unfinished' orchestral work... and as you rightly say, his faithful collaborator Rimsky never took on such a project Smiley

There are more than 600 orchestrations of this fabulous work (including one by yours truly which lies somewhere between Tushmalov and Ravel and includes an organ in the final moments)....
If anyone is interested in hearing, here is an excerpt from my version:
http://picosong.com/wnby9


Hello Relm1 - I really like your version of the Catacombs, it is very atmospheric.  Did you orchestrate the whole work?   Is it available to buy or download anywhere?  Please do tell us more, and about yourself as well!

Thank you Christopher.  Yes the whole work was orchestrated but truthfully, the performance wasn't very good and I am not comfortable sharing it all.  Lot's of cracked notes and inconsistent rhythms.  I performed the bass trombone part in the premiere performance and mixed the recording.  Overall it wasn't horrible but isn't what I would consider reflective of my intentions.  My orchestration is 33 minutes long and is scored for 3.3.3.3/4.3.3.1/timp+3/hp/celesta/organ (ad lib)/strings.  I adore the Ravel version but also wanted to make some practical changes.  I simplified some of the orchestration so it would be more playable and less demanding (Ravel does some very complex rhythms and double/triple stops that aren't fully necessary unless you have a suburb orchestra).  In Bydlo, the melody is given to a tuba in a very high register (typically requiring the performer to switch to a euphonium to hit the very high G# notes).  For me, I have the first phrase to the tuba and let the first horn pick up the higher notes.  It is the same note but fits their range better.  So why did Ravel put a tuba in that role?  He either knew that particular tubist could nail it or wanted the note to sound off.  I didn't want that.  I wanted more security.  I will tell you since I was the orchestrator and bass trombonist who sat next to the tuba that they were terrified of what Ravel wanted so my version is more tuba friendly while keeping the same musical intention.  As far as my background, I have a masters degree in composition and have orchestrated or arranged many works.  I have my own version of Bach's fantastic Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for orchestra and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in B minor that has been performed in concert.  This week my suite of themes of Puccini operas is being performed in concert.  I am currently working on my Symphony No. 2. 



Which orchestra is playing, which conductor etc? And when?  (I am labelling!!)
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