Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
Pictures from Crimea (Arr Walter Goehr)
ii Reverie (Douma)
Before we listen to the most famous set of "Pictures" ever composed (albeit in an unfamiliar guise), we hear another suite of lesser-known piano pieces given superb orchestral dress by Walter Goehr. Born in Berlin in 1903, Goehr was a precocious conductor for the theatre and radio while still in his teens. In 1933 he emigrated to England, where he continued his musical activities in the concert hall and became a prolific recording conductor.
His on, the composer Alexander Goehr, recalls that his father made many orchestral arrangements in the 1930's and 40's: "The Mussorgsky was just one item of a huge repertoire of similar arrangements which used to live in our garage at home when I was a child, from Duke Ellington to Lehar - upwards and downwards!"
For this 1946 suite (which has its parallels with Respighi's Three Botticelli Pictures, also recorded by Geoffrey Simon and The Philharmonia CACD 1007), Walter Goehr selected two piano pieces inspired by a visit Mussorgsky made to the Crimea region of Southern Russia in 1879. Originally, he intended to compose three "impressions" of his journey there, but in the event the third piece was never written down. The two "reminiscences" of Crimean localities were eventually published as En Crimee Gourzouf - Notes de Voyage (also known as Impressions of a Voyage in the Crimea) and En Crimee Baidary - Capriccio (otherwise Near the Southern Shore of the Crimea). To separate these, Goehr chose a reflective piece dating from 1865, entitled Reverie (or Douma), as a contrasting middle movement.
These Crimea Pictures contrast sombre moods with lively folk-dances of the region, and in Walter Goehr's expert orchestration we hear music which approaches Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade in its colourful sonorities. Those familiar with the Capriccio movement in its original piano form will know that it has fast outer sections enclosing a songful trio. Goehr has added to this a coda of his own devising, in which he brilliantly combines the fast music with the lyrical trio theme to provide a sparkling conclusion for the suite.