Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lucien Cailliet's Pictures

Maurice Ravel's 1922 orchestration of Mussorgsky's piano suite, "Pictures at an Exhibition," has for so long been a part of the standard orchestral repertory that one is apt to forget that many other people have tried their hand at orchestrating it too.  Among these were Sir Henry Wood, Leopold Stokowski, and the subject of this week's upload, Lucien Cailliet (1897-1985), French-born American composer, conductor, arranger and clarinettist.  In 1919 he joined the Philadelphia Orchestra in the latter two capacities, and eventually became Eugene Ormandy's orchestrator of choice.  In 1937 his version of Mussorgsky's masterpiece was unveiled and immediately elicited comparison with Ravel's, most of it negative (perhaps unsurprisingly).  Nevertheless it is worth a listen.  There are a few places where I think I actually prefer Cailliet's orchestration (the trombones in "Bydlo" as opposed to Ravel's tuba, for example), and all of the Promenades are there (Ravel had omitted the one before "Limoges").  Judge for yourself - here's the only known recording of this arrangement, made shortly after its première:

Mussorgsky (orch. Cailliet): Pictures at an Exhibition
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded October 17, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-442, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 67.73 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 35.28 MB)

Last summer, I uploaded another Cailliet orchestration conducted by Ormandy, of a suite from Purcell's opera "Dido and Aeneas."  This MP3 file is still available, and a FLAC file has been added:

Purcell (arr. Cailliet): Dido and Aeneas - Suite
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded August 9, 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-647, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 38.55 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 20.54 MB)


  1. Thanks, Bryan - I've always wanted to hear this.

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  3. Thanks much for this Bryan - I had this in my collection but was water damaged several years ago. Great to be able to hear it!

    Apropos of nothing, the image of Cailliet on your website has a remarkable resemblance to the comedian Lewis Black. I did a double take when I brought up the site!

    Keep up the great work, Bryan. Love coming here and downloading your projects.

    - Bill