April 2001

The Bekova Sisters - Rimsky-Korsakov/Mussorgsky: Piano Trio/Pictures at an Exhibition
Chandos 9672
Released: 2000

by Mike Masztal

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]Do we really need another recording of Pictures at an Exhibition? There are currently about a dozen different arrangements of this ubiquitous work available. Well, in this case, where the Bekova Sisters give us the premier recording of Pictures arranged for piano trio, the answer’s a resounding YES!

Personally, I’m puzzled why this type of arrangement hasn’t been done sooner. Pictures was originally written for solo piano, and many arrangers have taken a run at it, most notably Ravel in his orchestral setting. However, this interpretation is simply spectacular. What I found most impressive about it was the way the sparse instrumentation allows each of the three components -- violin, cello, piano -- to fully exploit its own tonal palette. The Bekova sisters take advantage of their respective instruments’ tonal capabilities. They play beautifully together, passing the melodies amongst themselves with no single instrumental voice dominating the work.

The arrangement is wonderfully wrought. The serenade from "The Old Castle" is seamlessly passed from the cello to the violin to the piano. During "Samuel Goldberg and Schmuyle," the violin effectively gives the piece a Middle Eastern flavor I’ve not heard before. The trio's speedy play and darting interchanges also give us better insights into the commotion at "The Market Place in Limoges." And the solemn "Con mortuis in lingua mortua" is just plain eerie.

I don’t wish to ignore the rest of the recording. The Rimsky-Korsakov piano trio in C Major will be familiar to many listeners, and it is well served here with a first rate performance. The recording itself is a tad over-sonorous, but nevertheless this is one arrangement any lover of Pictures will want for his or her collection.