Album: Pictures at an Exhibition
Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Painter: Viktor Hartmann
Pianist: Evgeny Kissin
Pictures at an Exhibition
Pictures at an Exhibition is a series of piano pieces composed by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. His series was inspired by paintings by Viktor Hartmann, most of which are lost. Descriptions of the no longer existing sketches and images of the surviving are collected below! It's a 34min. play through : )
Promenade is a repeated theme depicting Mussorgsky roving from one painting to the next until one in particular catches his eye and he sits, sadly remembering a departed friend.
A lost sketch of a gnome clumsily running with crooked legs is depicted with frantic music and his movements even more vividly suggested with the music's frequent stops and starts.
The later iterations of the opening theme are labeled as "Untitled" in Mussorgsky's original scores. These interludes create a nice break between sections, reminding the viewer as they move through the museum.
04. Il Vecchio Castello
The original oil painting, now lost, is believed to depict a large Italian castle with a nearby troubadour singing a song. The pacing and weight create a grandiose presence pulling your attention to the old castle.
The Promenade once again pulls the viewer from one piece to another, this time with more weight than the others.
Hartmann's painting of Jardain des Tuileries near the Louvre in France is now lost, but depicted children and their nurses running about the garden.
07. Cattle (Bydlo)
This painting was thought to be of a cart on large wheels being pulled by large oxen. The loud, lumbering introduction suggests the cart starting nearby and slowly fading into the distance as the song gradually lessens in dynamic.
The Promenade once again pulls the viewer from one piece to another. This time with a more reflective and somber quality.
09. Ballet of Unhatched Chicks
Hartmann's design for a scene from the ballet, "Trilby" or "Demon of the Heath". The music is an amusing interpretation of their movement.
10. Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle
Based on two separate portraits by Viktor Hartmann of two Polish Jews, one rich and one poor. The music has two themes, which are combined in the third section.
Almost none-for-note restatement of the opening theme. This gives listeners another hearing of the piece before it is developed later on.
12. Limoges, le marché
Limoges is a city in central France. Mussorgsky originally included a text describing the scene, "The Great News", but they were later removed. The setting is two French women in the Limoges market quarreling violently.
13. Catacombs (Part 01)
Hartmann represented himself examining the Paris catacombs. Written in two parts, the first is still and using definitive block chords to accent the echo of an ancient catacomb.
14. Con Mortuis in Lingua Mortua (PART 02)
In part two, Hartmann and the viewer fade into the darkness until the observer becomes a part of the painting itself. The text Mussorgsky left in the margins of his original manuscript further the idea of the viewer being led inside the painting.
15. The Hut on Fowl's Legs
Hartmann's painting of a clock in the form of Baba Yaga's hut. Baba Yaga is an ambiguous character from Eastern European folklore. Sometimes seen as maternal and at other times villainous. Her hut has been depicted as a tall home on fowl's legs. Her folklore is strongly tied to nature.
16. The Great Gate of Kiev
The final piece of the series was a painting done for Tsar Alexander II to commemorate his narrow escape from an assassination attempt. Hartmann regarded it as the best work he had ever done, and it was chosen to be built as the city gates at Kiev, however, the project was later cancelled. Mussorgsky's composition enhances the grand nature of both the gate and the celebratory story behind it as well.