Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition
Night on the Bare Mountain
The Sorochinsky Fair
Carlo Ponti, conductor
More info
Pentatone SACD 5186332
Purchase via RNO Pentatone Music iTunes

Reviews exciting and unique performance of this warhorse. I find [Carlo Ponti's] approach to be fresh and new and [he] takes the Mussorgsky masterpiece in a new direction... this makes for a very good addition to the existing versions... the special surprise on this disc is the enchanting and gorgeous performance of the Introduction from the Sorochinsky Fair, with pastoral oboes and wonderful orchestral colors. The Prelude and Dance of the Persian Slave Girls do not disappoint either. Colorful, ethereal and simply enjoyable... An excellent disc....

Positive Feedback

...the performances with Carlo Ponti conducting [bring] out the inherent beauty of the melodic passages and the lyrical or descriptive passages... The audio quality is quite excellent... Everything is simply musical and the three excerpts (from Khovanshchina and The Sorochinsky Fair) are a frosting on this musical cake... a solid recommendation is easily given here.


Ponti... brings out the Russian-ness of Mussorgsky's inspiration with each of the pictures sharply characterised and with much delicate playing... That goes with recording of extreme dynamic range... The wind solos are specially impressive, as is the horn descant in the "Great Gate of Kiev." In short, an excellent version of a much-recorded piece. Night on the Bare Mountain... [is] brilliantly played here with powerful bite. The Super Audio recording adds to the impact of the performances, well engineered by Pentatone technicians...

Kulturradio, Germany

Carlo Ponti proves to be a very agile partner to the Russian National Orchestra. The energy of the music is reminiscent of his electrifying debut with this ensemble in Moscow. The orchestra shines under his streamlined leadership, especially in the fast-paced, colorful sections.


A beautiful and inspiring piece of work that will resonate with classical music novices as well as traditionalists. Ponti, along with the Russian National Orchestra, interprets Mussorgsky's masterworks to perfection... Ponti's impeccable musical skills effortlessly shine through each work thus creating a dynamic debut CD... Ponti is a classical music tour-de-force and one who has quickly established himself as one to watch.

...wonderful playing from the Russian National Orchestra and a very clear recording from Pentatone.... Quite the best items on the disc [are] the Introduction to The Sorochinsky Fair (delightfully tender playing) and the Dance of the Persian Slave Girls from Khovanshchina...

Fantastic performance by the Russian National Orchestra and their talented conductor! All selections on this disc are prodigiously well interpreted and performed. This CD features some of the best interpretations of these seminal works I have ever heard... Ponti brings to life every picture in Mussorgsky's masterwork with incredible clarity and commitment.... Sorochinsky Fair is a masterpiece of restraint and emotion with some of the most committed playing featured on the recording, while the Prelude to Khovanshchina is the cleanest I have ever heard in terms of intonation of the winds and directness of attack by the strings, resulting in precise ensemble playing and an unprecedented transparency of texture.... I recommend this SACD to anyone interested in purchasing a high quality recording which shines on every aspect: interpretation, performance and masterful engineering by PentaTone Classics; a must-have for any serious collector!

Audio and Record (Korea)

… a brilliant debut… The Russian National Orchestra’s performance tradition and [Ponti’s] delicate aesthetics combine in this performance… the various contrasts in Pictures at an Exhibition are also exhibited in the muscular rendition of Night on the Bare Mountain. Orchestral excerpts from the unfinished opera The Sorochinsky Fair and Khovanshchina deliver an outstanding lyrical sense through perfect ensemble playing.

…the sound is spectacular, offering depth, clarity and impact. The definition of the individual instruments, the balance of the different choirs, and the sheer presence of the whole orchestra is as lifelike as one is likely to hear outside of the concert hall... Carlo Ponti is a capable conductor… one can imagine that he might even be formidable.

Sound and Music (Italy)

Ponti [and the RNO] offer inspired readings of two of the most famous Russian masterworks: Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on the Bare Mountain, coupled with various other Modest Mussorgsky works presented for the first time in SACD. This recording is an absolute must-have for any respectable audiophile.

Audiophile Audition

….this splendidly-mounted SACD [features] brilliant execution by the Russian National Orchestra led by Carlo Ponti…. Pictures serves as a display piece for the RNO’s choirs, much in the manner that the Leningrad Philharmonic under Mravinsky represented a sonic world entirely its own. Ravel’s orchestration…allows the RNO’s woodwinds, especially the bassoon, to bask in florid curlicues of melody [and] deep, modal harmonies. Ponti takes the faster sections…at a fierce clip, deliberately asking his ensemble to imitate the Concertgebouw under Mengelbeerg… the multichannel experience… has the choir separation at colossal for brilliance and solo instrument articulation. The two excerpts from Khovantschina had me thinking back to both Stokowski and Szell, respectively, for elegance of line and directness of attack.

Fulvue Drive-In

The Ponti recording…is phenomenal. Jaw-dropping. Inspiring. Riveting. Astonishing. There are some truly fine recordings in the world and this one is full of emotion. Ponti’s handling of the content is calculated, articulate, raw, and passionate… Pictures goes through a wide range of emotions from start to finish and its dynamics are fully realized here. I would easily say that this recording needs to be in the hands of any serious classical fan immediately, it’s that good!

What They’re Saying

"[The] American-Russian Festival Orchestra, featuring distinguished players from the Russian National Orchestra and a number of prominent American orchestras...[conveys] a vital message to our participants and observers, that by working together we can share our musical and historical cultures and increase our understanding of one another."

Athena T. Blackburn

Founding board member, Festival Napa Valley