MUSSORGSKY:  Pictures at an Exhibition (Orch. Ravel).  Night on the Bare Mountain (Rimsky-Korsakov and original versions).  Hopak from Sorochintsy Fair.  Golitsin's Exile from Khovanshchina.
National Symphony Orch. of Ukraine/Theodore Kuchar, cond.
NAXOS 8.555924 (B) (DDD) TT:  63:24

TURINA:  Sinfonía sevillana.  Danzas fantásticas.  Ritmos (Fantasía coreográfica).  La procesión del Rocío.
Castile and Leon Symphony Orch/Max Bragado Darman, cond.
NAXOS 8.555955 (B) (DDD) TT:  61:47

Two more attractive budget CDs from Naxos!  The Mussorgsky collection is intriguing for its inclusion of both the original and Rimsky-Korsakov versions of  Night on the Bare Mountain (or Night on Bald Mountain if you prefer).  Both are given impulsive, vivid performances by Kuchar and his fine orchestra.  Their version of Pictures, if lacking the supreme virtuosity of recordings by major-league orchestras, has much to offer.  Galitsin's Exile is a powerful Entr' acte from Act IV of Khovanshchina depicting a man going to his execution.  It was a favorite of Leopold Stokowski whose transcription has more and bigger gongs although the music is equally effective in its original form. Even with addition of this and the brief (1:42) Gopak, playing time is rather short, but this is a budget CD.  Producer Alexander Hornostai and engineer Andrij Mokrysky have provided a broad sonic picture with warmth and dynamic range as well.

The Turina CD is equally appealing, gathering together the composer's best-known orchestral works. Most intriguing is the ballet Ritmos, a score premiered as a concert piece in 1928 with the composer conducting; apparently it has never been staged as a ballet.  All music on this CD is colorful and gentle (even the final "Exotic Dance" of Ritmos is quite tame), superbly played by the Spanish orchestra under its native-born conductor Max Bragado Darman.  For the past three decades Darman has had an active conducting career in the U.S. as well as in Europe.  He leads affectionate performances of his countryman's music, with the orchestra in good form.  Darman also produced this recording, with engineer Antonio Olariaga.  They have achieved a natural, crystal-clear and resonant sound.  The only debit—and a minor one indeed—is that the six sections of Ritmos are not tracked.

R.E.B. (May 2003)