“......an 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....
“...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...”
“A beautiful and inspiring piece of work that will resonate with classical music novices as well as traditionalists. Ponti Jr., along with the Russian National Orchestra, interprets Mussorgsky's masterworks to perfection... The clarity of the orchestration on Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition is superb. Ponti Jr's impeccable musical skills effortlessly shine through each work thus creating a dynamic debut CD... Ponti Jr. is a classical music tour-de-force and one who has quickly established himself as one to watch.”
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
“...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.”
“...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.”
“...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...”
“...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.”
“...Pictures 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.”
“Carlo Ponti’s delicate taste blends with the Russian National Orchestra’s performance to produce an outstanding interpretation... Pentatone's attention to detail and recording technology allows even the foam on the water in [“The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship”] to come alive, and the grace in Tatiana Porshneva’s violin solos adds depth to the beauty of her playing... The “Neopolitan Folk Song” arrangement is a special gem.”
“In Scheherazade, the [Russian National Orchestra] plays beautifully under [Carlo Ponti's] direction, with a rich and colorful sound... The storm and shipwreck of the final movement are suitably cataclysmic and delivered with dazzling virtuosity and precision. Throughout, the excellence of the orchestral playing, conveyed in vivid, transparent sound provides much satisfaction. The violin solos are beautifully and sensitively handled by Tatiana Porshneva.
“In Capriccio espagnol, the two Alborada movements... are very clearly articulated. In the variations, the sumptuous orchestral playing is once again beguiling, especially in the winds. Precise execution and sonic splendor are again in evidence in the concluding segments, combined with an appealing verve... The SACD stereo sound is bright, clear and spacious, with gratifying impact and depth... the details and colors of the score realized in resplendent orchestral playing and vivid, detailed sound.”
Best of 2011
“It's hard to imagine more delightful showpieces for a super audio CD... Carlo Ponti's exceptional conducting, the Russian National Orchestra's sumptuous playing, and PentaTone Classic's fantastic multichannel sound combine to make this a dream SACD for any audiophile and a great demo for anyone who wants to show off high-end stereo equipment... This superb album is highly recommended.”
“The Russian National Orchestra's performance of these popular Rimsky-Korsakov works [Scheherazade] is full of vitality. Conductor Carlo Ponti gives all the works on the album a clear sense of interpretive design and fosters faultless playing from his ensemble.”
“Carlo Ponti... knows [the RNO] well and they know him, offering highly refined playing and care over many telling details in Rimsky-Korsakov’s fragrant Arabian Nights tale Scheherazade. Ponti gives the music plenty of time and space, a relaxed alternative to the usually urgent point-making more commonly heard in this luxurious work... the solo playing is especially good and the reading coheres enjoyably... Capriccio espagnole is also spaciously treated... Neapolitan Song is a lively bonus.”
“...[a] truly fine release featuring excellent performances by the musicians of the Russian National Orchestra topped off with another audience favorite, the Capriccio Espagnol... To all this must be added simply outstanding SACD audio quality... A top recommendation is easily earned for this highly enjoyable release.”
“Ponti’s generally relaxed tempi allow appreciation of some fine solo playing from individual members of the RNO, especially that of the two concertmasters,Tatiana Porshneva (Scheherazade) and Alexei Bruni (Capriccio)... The disc ends with a delightful lollipop, almost worth the price of the disc alone. Rimsky-Korsakov's Neapolitan Song is a sparkling arrangement for orchestra of Luigi Denza's popular song Funiculi, Funiculà... The RNO really sound as if they are enjoying performing this rare novelty, a piece that would make a terrific concert encore... The body and richness of the RNO's fine orchestral playing has been captured with remarkable fidelity. The sound-stage is wide and deep, while Ponti's seating of the players allows antiphonal exchanges between first and second violins to be clearly audible. Percussion and brass are viscerally thrilling throughout.”
“This Scheherazade [sounds] properly sensuous... luxuriant, voluptuous, even sensual. [Ponti's version] is more lyrical than most... with "The Tale of Prince Kalendar" sounding resplendent and dance-like and "The Young Prince and the Young Princess" coming off even better.... Under Ponti's direction, [Capriccio espagnol] contains moments of great beauty.... The Neapolitan Song is full of verve and high spirits..."
“Carlo Ponti, conducting a Russian National Orchestra that is in particularly fine fettle in these recordings, is at pains to bring out all the fine points in these scores with the greatest clarity... Ponti's account of Scheherazade is slower than most versions I have heard, but it is by no means tedious. It's a work in which every little instrumental timbre has a meaning all its own.... At first, I was somewhat puzzled by Ponti's holding back on the climaxes within movements 13, until I realized that his intention was to make the finale all the more thrilling and exciting as it moves through several stages... followed by a stunning coda and a return to the main theme that began the symphony. That theme, representing the voice of the storyteller, Scheherazade herself, recurs in various guises in all four movements, and is played here with distinction by violinist Tatiana Porshneva. Ponti gives equally incisive treatment to the companion work, Capriccio Espagnol... As in Scheherazade, there is a violin solo at key moments, played capably here by Alexei Bruni.”