Elgar enigma/ Picture at an exhibition

I need some CD recommendations on both pieces of music

My son is playing in the local youth orchestra and the music director wants them to listen to the music before the rehearsal

For Pictures my choices would be Szell with Cleveland, there is also an SACD version, that I have and is worth it, if your system can play them. Next would be von Karajan's

Elgar's Enigmas my favorite is Boult's others will have others. Both have many good recordings to choose from.
For Pictures at an Exhibition, you can't go wrong starting with Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on RCA. It's one of the great performances of this work.

For the Enigma Variations, I'd recommend starting with Monteux and the London Symphony Orchestra (RCA, re-released on Decca). Also a highly regarded performance of this piece.

$50 for Szell with Cleveland in SACD. wow pretty steep
Kudos to you for being involved in your son's music education.

Several fine recordings of Pictures as already mentioned. But, for me, to really understand this music the performance needs a Russian sensibility. The Valery Gergiev reading with the Vienna Philharmonic is hard to beat. I also encourage you to have your son listen to a recording of the music as originally composed; for piano. This will broaden his understanding. The Sviatoslav Richter recordings are very fine.
The price has gone up I didn't pay anywhere near that for it.
Good suggestion from Frogman to listen to the the Pictures as
originally written for piano.

But as to needing a Russian orchestra to really get the full
sense of this orchestral work, remember that the orchestral
version most often performed is the orchestration by the
French composer, Maurice Ravel.
A second for Monteux and LSO on the Enigma,
A Pictures recording with a really great orchestra would be the Ormandy recording with Philadelphia:


(There's another recording on RCA, but I'm referring specifically to this one on Sony.)
Rushton, your point is well taken; Ravel orchestrated the music, and he is not Russian. However, the importance of the orchestrator (even Ravel), and certainly his/her nationality, must take a back seat to the composer's. The orchestration of any work does not usually determine the music's meaning at a level nearly as basic as the composition itself; regardless of what instrument(s) the music was composed for. IOW, an Irish reel orchestrated for large orchestra is still an Irish reel. I am less concerned about the nationality of the orchestra than I am about the nationality of the conductor; although the orchestra's nationality can play a significant role in capturing (or not) the appropriate flavor of any composition. Clearly, many compositions can be done justice by performers/interpreters of a nationality other than the composer's; there are many recorded examples of that. But I will offer a personal experience to describe what I am referring to:

I am an orchestral saxophonist, and as I am sure you know, the saxophone solo in "The Old Castle" is probably the best known orchestral saxophone solo in the literature; with the posssible exception of the solos in "Bolero" (also Ravel). I have played "The Old Castle" more times than I can remember; and for many different conductors. I thought I knew and understood "Pictures" very well until I had the pleasure of playing it under Gergiev two years ago. It was almost like it was different music. He had an exceptionally deep understanding of the music, and ability to convey what he wanted, and continually referred to what it was he wanted as being tied to the music's ethnicity. I found it fascinating, and one of my most memorable experiences as a player.

The Reiner recording is also fantastic. Hard to beat the Chicago brass section for sheer power. But, if you have the opportunity, listen to how Gergiev brings out the dissonances in the brass chords; what he refers to as the "spiciness" of the chords. I found it thrilling, and it gave the music a flavor that I had not been aware it had. Was his interpretation the result of his being Russian? I don't know. But I don't think it is too far-fetched to think that it had a role.
Frogman, great story! Thank you for sharing it with us. I certainly understand what you mean about nuances that are pulled out by a sensitive conductor. The "spiciness" to which you refer is something I would enjoy hearing and will seek out a copy of the Gergiev performance to hear.

Many thanks.
Listen to Frogman, Rush! He is a marvellous performer and a great teacher, as well!
I am, I am! :-)

Good to hear from you, Russ.