Mussorgsky ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ – Sir Henry Wood orchestration



Sir Henry Wood’s version of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ dates from 1915. It was only the second orchestration of Mussorgsky’s piano set, the first being that by Mikhail Tushmalov, a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov. Like the Tushmalov version, Wood’s is not complete, since he omits all but the first of the ‘Promenades’ and makes considerable changes and abridgements to the music throughout. However, when the Ravel version appeared a few years later, Wood’s disappeared from view while Ravel’s became the pre-eminent transcription of the work, still retaining its place today at the head of over 30 orchestrations by other composers and conductors.

For a Proms concert in 2010 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Sir Henry Wood’s arrangement was given a rare revival by the National Orchestra of Wales under its Associate Guest Conductor, Francois-Xavier Roth. Gordon Jacob once described Wood’s orchestration as “superior in picturesqueness to Ravel’s” with its astonishing array of orchestral effects. On the other hand, as the announcer says at the end, it is very “over the top.” No wonder the Proms audience went wild!

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19 thoughts on “Mussorgsky ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ – Sir Henry Wood orchestration

  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    Arthur Jacobs wrote of Wood:
    His orchestral players affectionately nicknamed him "Timber" – more than a play on his name, since it seemed to represent his reliability too. His tally of first performances, or first performances in Britain, was heroic: at least 717 works by 357 composers. Greatness as measured by finesse of execution may not be his, particularly in his limited legacy of recordings, but he remains one of the most remarkable musicians Britain has produced.[16]

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    I like this raucous version of one of my favorite pieces of music.

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    Hard to judge the merits of an orchestration when you decide to leave out the connecting thread and entire premise of the piece. Now it's just a disparate suite without overarching cohesion.

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    Très belle orchestration, moins lourde, plus ciselée ; ça change que d'entendre la sempiternelle Ravel (très belle aussi au demeurant).

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    Very interesting. I am grateful for the opportunity to finally hear this version that I've read about. It has some engaging effects but, for me, Ravel's orchestration is by far the superior one. This is no surprise, given how successfully Ravel reworked so many of his own piano scores for orchestra.

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    Superb orchestration and understanding of the original. Surpasses Ravel and Stokowski by a long way

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    oh noo… what a bad arrangement… sorry, but it was really bad.. my ears almost started bleeding of some parts..

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    A few parts were better than Ravel's (I especially liked the mood-setting in the Great Gate of Kiev), but overall, Ravel's is easier to listen to and–I think, at least–better.

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    Now i undestand why henry Wood banned any public interpretation of his adaptation in favor of Ravel's arrangement… some parts are great, some are a pain in the ears, good though but not THAT good… Master Wood knew why to ban his own piece.

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    Because YouTube has grown so wonderfully large, folks in other countries around the world can now watch these grand
    programs from the BBC with excellent camera works always at the right moment to let the viewer see in detail those
    musicians playing their very best, and the audio especially of the Proms is great. Many thanks for posting it all on You
    Tube.. I've been listening to Pictures at an Exhibition since grade school back in the mid 1940's, it just keeps getting
    better. Thanks. Paul

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    This is the first time I hear this orchestration of Mussorgski's
    pictures of an exhibition and I must say that I love it because
    I was able to expect every one of Sir Henry Wood's choices,
    thing which I couldn't with Ravel's orchestration.

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    Is it what Wood wrote or is this conductor taking everything way too fast? or is it just me?

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  • September 22, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    Wow!!! I must admit I listened thinking it would be awful. I loved it. I can see how traditionalist might not. This is piece is almost sacred to some. I thought I would be one of them.I do not get the organ and will never get the organ that being said the rest was as kick ass as they come. Thanks for posting this.

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