Pictures at an Exhibition

Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is a suite of ten movements composed for piano and later arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel. Written in a whirlwind of grief and remembrance following the untimely death of friend and artist Viktor Hartmann, this piece is a favorite for many, perhaps because of its rich and universal backstory and visual makeup. The piece is marked by a familiar and intermittent promenade theme offered in variations of mood and modulation. This musical theme that many recognize is a musical allusion to a stroll and contemplation that brings a viewer from one painting to another. Among the ten movements listed below Mussorgsky references some of 400 paintings in Viktor Hartmann’s collection in specific and composite ways.

 

  • Promenade
  • No. 1 “The Gnome”
  • [Untitled] (Interlude, Promenade theme)
  • No. 2 “The Old Castle”
  • [Untitled] (Interlude, Promenade theme)
  • No. 3 “Tuileries”
  • No. 4 “Cattle”
  • [Untitled] (Interlude, Promenade theme)
  • No. 5 “The Ballet of Unhatched Chicks in their Shells”
  • No. 6 “Samuel Goldenberg and Schmu├┐le”
  • Promenade
  • No. 7 “The Market at Limoges (The Great News)”
  • No. 8 “Catacombs”
  • No. 9 “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs”
  • No. 10 “The Great Gate of Kiev”

Some of the history of this piece is described in the letters of Mussorgsky. And though not all of the paintings Mussorgsky’ reflected on for his composition exist, some do and are available online.

Here below is a link to notes from Sergei Vladimir Korschmin, a Russian conductor working in Queensland Australia. His notes include many pictures of Hartmann’s work, excerpts of Mussorgsky’s letters, and contextual background of the creation of this masterpiece.

Pictures at an Exhibition

Other links to notes about the music include:

Artists who have created artwork inspired by the Pictures at a Exhibition music.

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