Without question, and with a single reservation, this is the finest set of performances, recorded on their own label, I have heard from Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky Orchestra.

I've been ambivalent about much of Gergiev's recorded work with his great orchestra. This is different. There's no sense of rush through any of the works: indeed, there is every sense that Gergiev has sat down and completely reconsidered Mussorgsky's warhorse, Pictures At An Exhibition, in its fabulous orchestration by Ravel. The results are phenomenal, with an unhurried progress through the gallery, vivid and richly coloured characterisations (cavernous Catacombs and intense portraiture of the two Jews, one pompous, the other bleating) and the whole piece elevated by the staggeringly refined playing of the Mariinsky Orchestra. Essential listening, though you do have to put up with Gergiev grunting through the Limoges movement. Mindblowing performances too, of the Songs And Dances Of Death (bass Ferrucio Furlanetto) and Night On Bare Mountain.

Michael Tumelty