. . . [an] impressive orchestral offering from the Vienna Philharmonic and their charismatic Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel . . .
[Mussorgsky / "Pictures at an Exhibition"]: Dudamel's recording with the VPO is very impressive; of the dozens of recordings of this popular piece available, few are as cleanly played. In this performance, rhythms are accurate, and chords are nearly always perfectly in tune. The loud brass chords in "Catacombs" are played with exceptional precision . . . The performance of Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" on this new DG recording is well-played and . . . vividly characterized . . .
. . . I cannot deny the instrumental versatility of the Vienna Philharmonic players and the pungent acoustical resonance captured by Recording Engineer Rene Moeller . . . Certainly the individual colors in this performance, as in the Vienna Philharmonic's excellent bassoon solos, captivate my ear. The bass fiddles in "Bydlo" have rarely resonated so deeply . . . [Mussorgsky / "Night on Bald Mountain"]: an impressive tour de force . . . A sweeping performance by Dudamel elicits energy and vast colors from the VPO, and the morning dispersal of the evil spirits enjoys marvelous ensemble from flute, strings, and harp . . . Dudamel, of course, accords the music the full Technicolor treatment, from strings to brushed and crashing cymbals . . . The resonance of the orchestra, its especially timbred tympani, add a luster . . . [Dudamel's broad approach] convinces me that this moment from ballet shimmers in epic splendor.
. . . [Dudamel conjures up a] fine performance of this orchestral showpiece . . . taking full account of the Vienna Philharmonic's rich wind and brass timbres, captured here with splendid immediacy in the Musikverein . . . [Dudamel] is particularly effective at establishing the appropriate character and atmosphere for each of the individual movements, from the weary tread of the "Bydlo" and the introverted melancholy of "The Old Castle" to the grotesquerie of "The Gnome" and "Baba-Yaga" and playfulness of the "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks". The orchestra responds incisively to his demands . . . Dudamel presents a suitably volatile account of "Night on Bald Mountain" . . . and the orchestra brings a delightful Viennese lilt to the Waltz from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake".
As a conductor who invariably imparts freshness to a score, Dudamel doesn't disappoint in "Pictures at an Exhibition". It's a warm, colorful performance captured in especially vivid sound by DG's engineers . . . There is such clarity of detail that one hears the famed Viennese glow with unusual realism. Dudamel inspires playing that's just as vivid . . . [each individual section] contains something special. There's not the slightest hint of routine, which makes this recording a perfect vehicle for hearing afresh the marvels of the Mussorgsky-Ravel masterpiece . . . Dudamel captures something personal in a score that, frankly, very few conductors take personally . . . The new CD is filled out with a vibrant "Night on Bald Mountain" in the Rirnsky-Korsakov arrangement that's just as splendidly recorded . . . all complaints are rendered meaningless by the absolute beauty and charm of Dudamel 's performance with the greatest waltz orchestra in the world . . . the main attraction will be the superlative quality of the performances and not least the recorded sound.
. . . a performance of warmth, beauty, and even intimacy . . . a more lyrical, rounded approach . . . Instead of a sonic spectacular, we get a warm and quite beautiful musical experience. Dudamel also knows where to find the humor in the music, and how to communicate it. One feels the conductor and musicians smiling in the "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" . . . Dudamel and the Vienna Philharmonic give a Viennese "lift" to the Tchaikovsky Waltz . . . I find it a lovely fresh viewpoint . . . this is a lovely disc with something fresh to say about some old warhorses.