Different Paths to Night on Bald Mountain

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Modest Mussorgsky, 1865(Photo: Unknown)
Modest Mussorgsky, 1865(Photo: Unknown)

Boyce Lancaster talks with Maestro Albert-George Schram, the resident staff conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, about Modest Mussorgsky‘s Night on Bald Mountain. There are various versions of this piece, including Mussorgsky’s seldom-performed 1867 version and a 1886 “fantasy for orchestra” arranged by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

Like many of Mussorgsky’s works, the piece was completed by another artist.

[audio src="http://wosu.org/audio/classical/2006/NightonBaldMountain.mp3"]

Highlights From This Interview:

Boyce: “I would wonder if (Mussorgsky’s) predilection for getting into the bottom of a bottle made some of the things he wrote a little bit difficult to deal with.”

Albert-George: “On some level it’s true. Mussorgsky’s art as a composer was a bit more elemental and less refined.”

Albert-George: “I tried to do once Mussorgsky’s original Night on Bald Mountain, and it just didn’t work. I had to really work hard to make the work speak. I had to adjust balances, I had to do all kinds of things.”

Albert-George: “You forget that we always do the Rimsky-Korsakov version of that. And there’s a reason for that. Rimsky-Korsakov took it maybe too far, because he re-composed some of the stuff, and added to it, to sort of help the piece. I still would go with Rimsky-Korsakov, although there is Claudio Abbado. I think he did a version that he really went the other way, the original Mussorgsky. And he really worked it. And it’s a very visceral, exciting performance to hear Mussorgsky’s own language in his own voice.”

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