I can't help you directly, but have you tried the Penguin Guide ? I have always found it to be a very helpful guide, whether you're looking for performance quality, recording quality, or both.
I hope I'm not stating the obvious ... I haven't heard as much mention of this book in the US as I used to back in the UK, so I'm not sure how well it is known/regarded in the US.
I'm not sure there are any great recordings of the piano version of the Mussorgski piece, but there are quite a few of the Ravel orchestration of it. Look for the Solti performances, as well as the famous Karajan ones. They're all very well recorded.
My favorite is Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain; Pictures at an Exhibition, Maazel (conductor), Telarc (recording Co.)
Watch out for the volume….
Best Piano version of this masterpiece is IMO by Hyperion KNIGHT on the Wilson Audio WCD-9025.
It is simply SUPERB.
And what about "Pictures" transcribed for Organ. Try DORIAN recordings DOR#90117 with master Jean Guillou at the great organ of the Tonhalle,Zurich
Agree with Seandtaylor99, Penguin Guides are invaluable. Available from Amazon.
In case Marakanetz doesn't want to wait to get a copy, the top-ranked cd version is by Mikhail Peltnev on Virgin/EMI VC7 59611-2. A mono version by Horowitz on RCA is also recommended. Can't lay my hands on the Penguin Guide for LPs at the moment, so can't help you there.
Many people think that Sviatoslav Richter's performance recorded live at a recital in Sofia (1958) is in a class by itself--one of the great piano recordings of all time. The sound isn't great and there's substantial background noise. The disc was once available only in Japan, but Philips has re-issued it.
While I agree with many of the above posts, I have a suggestion which is both an excellent recording and performance, although orchestral not piano - Reference Recording's performance of "Pictures" by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Symphony.
There is another classic and very good performance on Mercury Living Presence. The CD reissue of Dorati's orchestral version is coupled with a previouly unreleased solo piano version performed by Byron Janis. The transfer to CD was done by Wilma Cozart fine. Well worth getting for either performance, especially since these reissue CD's are priced below $ 13
Alexc's suggestion is a good one, as is the Knight version. My favorite, probably because it was the first piano performance of it I heard, is the Horowitz recording on RCA, which I have somewhere in my records in glorious mono, a marvellous performance. I would love to hear the Richter, as I always have admired his artistry.
hey, has everyone forgotten about emmerson, lake and palmer? -cfb
Of course I forgot, I'm over 50, remember?
I have a recording by Barry Douglas. It was recorded in 1986, in his winning Tchaikovsky piano competition performance. It is on CD, at Tower Records for $7.99;
Also have a nice recording by Ashkenazy. It is on LP or on a CD at Tower Records for $14.99. The Ashkenazy recording has both the solo piano version played by Ashkenazy and then Ashkenazy conducting the orchestra version.
Performance-wise, I can also suggest Benno Moiseiwitch (2cd/mono -"Appian" - compilation of '38-'45 recordings). Richter & Horowitz are also among my favourites.
The Richter recording is by far my favorite even with the sound quality limitations. Richter's recording was, in fact, a big reason why the original paino piece began to be played again in the West.
For me, both sound and performance are very important. Therefore "emotion and Feel" are key elements. I think the version performed by Dorati and its piano coupling with Byron Janis on Mercury stands as a timeless pairing on one disc. Get this Mercury CD by all means. While a few have panned The newer Reference Recordings version with the Minnesota Orchestra, I believe its sound and impact to be the equal of the 1980s Telarc Maazel Version which has been a standard for years.
I very much go with Gregm. I also like Fritz Reiner's version with the CSO. Jonathan's suggestion makes me curious, although generally I cannot bear big orchestral music on CD, even if its done by RR...too used to and spoilt by vinyl.
with the Janis/Mercury recording....
I find the piano version very uninspired..almost mechanical.. and sonically , at least on my gear, it is as though
the piano is miked too closely..perhaps it is the remastering...
On the other hand, the orchestral version is moving and emotional...and worth the price of the cd for it alone.
ok, here i go out on the limb. my very favorite is TOMITA!
the presentation is nearly visual with the synthesizer as he performs it. of course i love the orch and piano versions and the organ versions too.
the orch version o prefger is the lorin maazel/clevleand/telarc which is verrry powerful in the great gate. yoel levys version on telarc is also right in there too, as is the reiner on rca.
sorry but the elp is to vomit for. i know that there are those that feel the same way about the tomita as i do about ELPs but this is life. allice artzt a classical guitarrist agrees here.
another version is the guitar version by kazuhito yamashita, a masterpiece on rca. this doesnt seem to be avail at towerrecords.com, keep trying the used LP bins. he also does 'new world symphony' by dvorak which i dont have.