American Record Guide Review “Of Lands and People Far Away”

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American Record Guide November/December 2008

In a comparative review of recordings of Pictures at an Exhibition by Enrique Graf and Sergei Kvitko, Donald Vroon, Editor of the magazine, writes:

[Kvitko’s] Mousorgsky is strong and heavy, with slow tempos and powerful crashes of sound. ‘Bydlo’ is very slow – almost too slow, but these are lumbering oxen – and makes Graf sound like children playing (wrong movement!). ‘The Old Castle’ is dark and shrouded in mystery. The last note of “Catacombs” really makes you sit up straight. Much of what he does is startling and dramatic, and all of it sounds natural and very Russian. There is nothing delicate about it and it is impossible to enjoy Mr Graf’s delicacy after hearing Mr Kvitko. Moussorgsky is simply more vivid played by Kvitko. ‘Baba Yaga’ is so much wilder – and here the tempo is faster than Graf’s. All his playing is pictorial – more descriptive. You can visualize the pictures from what he is playing. Graf is just playing notes; it’s just music to him – and he is actually very musical and never distorts anything. ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’ is a majestic structure when Mr. Kvitko plays it for us – a culmination of all we have “seen”, causing us to gasp.

I think I have to add Mr Kvitko’s Pictures to my collection; it belongs among the best ever made, and the sound is simply thrilling. — D. Vroon