Pictures at an Exhibition

Pictures at an Exhibition
Modest Mussorgsky
SACD on Pentatone Classics (PTC 5186 332)

“There is so much variety and emotion here, that no matter what distractions are going on around me, the music keeps pulling me back in. The musicianship sounds stellar to my ears. There's also the totally immersive surround mix which has discrete, active surround channels and great fidelity. I love the full, rich quality of this recording and the clarity and separation between the instruments. I'll use this disc as a demo of how good multichannel music can sound! This is one of my favorite classical SACDs in terms of content, fidelity and surround...”

—, June 2015

“ 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....”

—, March 2010 [more]

“...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.”

—, February 2010


“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...”

— Gramophone, June 2009 [more]


“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.”

— N2Entertainment, March 2009


“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.”

— Kulturradio (Germany), February 2009


“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!”

—, February 2009


“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.”

Sound and Music (Italy), January 2009


“...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.”

Audiophile Audition, January 2009


“...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.”

Audio and Record (Korea), January 2009


“...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...”

—, January 2009


“...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.”, December 2008


“...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.”

Fulvue Drive-In (USA), December 2008


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