When Modest Mussorgsky’s friend, Victor Hartman died in 1873 his drawings and pastels were posthumously exhibited in a St. Petersburg gallery. Mussorgsky payed his friend a musical tribute by writing a suite for piano titled Pictures at an Exhibition. It was later orchestrated by Maurice Ravel, an idea suggested to him by the conductor Serge Koussevitzky.
There are ten musical episodes in Pictures at an Exhibition, separated by “promenades,” with a recurring theme. The various sections range from the playful Gnomes to the noble The Old Castle to the delicate Jardin des Tuileries to the grotesquerie of Bydlo and Baba-Yaga to the folkloric Samuil Goldenberg and Limoges, to the grandly solemn Roman Catacombs.
Mussorgsky’s second opera, Khovanshchina, depicts the time when the powerful Streltzy, came into conflict with the future Peter the Great.
Mussorgsky died in 1881 at the age of forty-two, leaving the score of Khovanshchina unfinished. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov took on the challenge of completing and orchestrating it. The introduction to the opera is a symphonic poem in miniature, vividly depicting the dawn on the river Moskva.
A recording of Mussorgsky music with the late Sir Charles Mackerras leading the New Philharmonia Orchestra is again available through VANGUARD CLASSICS. The performance, the insightful liner notes by Nicholas Slominsky, and the engineering make this CD release most desirable.
Rafael de Acha ALL ABOUT THE ARTS