Monday, February 4, 2008

Pictures. . .part 1

So I'm currently playing the tenor tuba part (or alto tuba, if you ask the conductor) on Bydlo from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, arranged by Ravel.  And I have been listening to a number of orchestra's play this trying to get different interpretations of the movement. My favorite, by the way, is Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (it is really good!!!). 
Along the way I happened to find a couple of brass ensembles either doing an entire transcription of the piece or parts of it. So I figured I would listen to them and write about them on this blog, especially how they played Bydlo.
The first group is Chicago Brass Choir. They played the a lot of the movements from Pictures on their album "Pictures In Brass."  They leave out The Old Castle, Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuyle, and The Marketplace at Limoges. It is arranged by Michael Stewart, the musical director of the group. It says in the liner notes that he took the arrangement from the piano score and not any orchestrated version.  
I think overall the choir has a really nice sound.  The euphonium soloist (Tom Fritz) in the 2nd promenade sounds amazing. I think some of the faster movements, Gnomes and Tuileries are a little on the slow side. In this arrangement, bydlo is played by what seems to be the entire horn section (maybe with  trombones).   This wouldn't be the first time that someone used horns on this solo, Stokowski also used  horns in his transcription. The horns have alot more dynamic contrast then a lot of other recordings I've heard. I like what the arranger did with the promenade after the catacombs. In order to get a different color,  the trumpets are playing on all sorts of different mutes: cup, straight, and maybe even a harmon mute? It  really is a neat effect.  I think that movement is one of my favorites. I also thought that baba- yaga was a little on the slow side. I'm listening to it and I want it to go faster, but that is my own personal preference. 
So overall, I think that the Chicago Brass Choir have a great sound and they blended very well. My only down point is that I  wanted to hear faster movements at faster. I think it might have been a little cooler if they were able to do the entire Pictures and not just three quarters of it. 
Since this blog ended up longer then what I figuered, I'm going to leave the other two recording I have to other blogs. 
Until then,