to Xoan Carreira


It is quite possible that without the orchestrations and arrangements by Rimsky-Korsakov we would be neither familiar with Mussorgsky’s compositions nor his name. Rimsky-Korsakov’s achievement was not only getting Mussorgsky’s works interpreted and represented, but also that they thereby became part of the popular classical repertoire. Even Walt Disney featured Night on Bald Mountain in the nightmare at the end of his film Fantasia and Boris Godunov was for years the only Russian opera performed regularly in Western theatres. However, the arrangements of Rimsky-Korsakov radically suppressed all modernity in Mussorgsky, distancing him considerably from his own musical principles.

Reinstating the original orchestration of Night on Bald Mountain, his only major orchestral work, we discovered a composer way ahead of his time, with formal, harmonic and aesthetic options to be found only many years later in composers like Bartok or Janacek. For the wonderful orchestral excerpts from his opera Khovanshchina, no original orchestration exists. Shostakovich carried out a superb orchestration in a different age and with another attitude towards the original than that of Rimsky. Even so, it seemed legitimate to review and correct all those fragments in which the orchestration diverged from the harmonic conception of the original version for voice and piano. With this set of scores, it was possible to make an objective rendition of this composer so unjustly banished from the small group engaged in the arduous art of innovation in music.

A Tchaikovsky symphony was to complete the bill. To follow the tone of the first part of the programme, I tried to remove the exceptional composer from the romantic fanfare refuge where he has often been hidden. It was decidedly a Russian night.


Conductor: Pedro Alcalde
Orchestra: Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia
Venue: Palacio de la Ópera A Coruña
Date: 10th October 1996


Khovanshchina (Shostakovich Version, revised):
-Dawn on the Moscow River
-Dance of the Persian Slaves
-The Departure of Golistyn
St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain (Original Version)
– – –
Symphony nr.4 op.36