Tag Archives: Модест Петрович Мусоргский

Mussorgsky, “Pictures at an Exhibition” (original piano version; 1874); Мусоргский, «Картины на выставке» (оригинальная версия для фортепиано, 1874)

 

 

“Pictures at an Exhibition” (Russian: Картинки с выставки – Воспоминание о Викторе Гартмане; literally, “Pictures from an Exhibition – A Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann”; French: Tableaux d’une exposition) is a suite of ten pieces (plus a recurring, varied Promenade) composed for the piano by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (Russian: Модест Петрович Мусоргский) in 1874.

The suite is Mussorgsky’s most famous piano composition. It has become further known through various orchestrations and arrangements produced by other musicians and composers, with Maurice Ravel’s arrangement being by far the most recorded and performed.

 

 

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As noted in a Wikipedia entry:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modest_Mussorgsky

 

Contemporary opinions of Mussorgsky as a composer have varied from positive to ambiguous to negative. Mussorgsky’s eventual supporters, Stasov and Balakirev, initially registered strongly negative impressions of the composer. Stasov wrote Balakirev, in an 1863 letter, “I have no use for Mussorgsky. His views may tally with mine, but I have never heard him express an intelligent idea. All in him is flabby, dull. He is, it seems to me, a thorough idiot”, and Balakirev agreed: “Yes, Mussorgsky is little short of an idiot.”

Mixed impressions were recorded by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky, colleagues of Mussorgsky who, unlike him, made their living as composers. Both praised his talent while expressing disappointment with his technique. Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that Mussorgsky’s scores included “absurd, disconnected harmony, ugly part-writing, sometimes strikingly illogical modulation, sometimes a depressing lack of it, unsuccessful scoring of orchestral things… what was needed at the moment was an edition for performance, for practical artistic aims, for familiarization with his enormous talent, not for the study of his personality and artistic transgressions.”

While preparing an edition of Sorochintsï Fair [an opera], Anatoly Lyadov remarked: “It is easy enough to correct Mussorgsky’s irregularities. The only trouble is that when this is done, the character and originality of the music are done away with, and the composer’s individuality vanishes.”

Tchaikovsky, in a letter to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck was also critical of Mussorgsky: “Mussorgsky you very rightly call a hopeless case. In talent he is perhaps superior to all the [other members of The Five], but his nature is narrow-minded, devoid of any urge towards self-perfection, blindly believing in the ridiculous theories of his circle and in his own genius. In addition, he has a certain base side to his nature which likes coarseness, uncouthness, roughness. He flaunts his illiteracy, takes pride in his ignorance, mucks along anyhow, blindly believing in the infallibility of his genius. Yet he has flashes of talent which are, moreover, not devoid of originality.”

Western perceptions of Mussorgsky changed with the European premiere of Boris Godunov in 1908. Before the premiere, he was regarded as an eccentric in the west. Critic Edward Dannreuther, wrote, in the 1905 edition of The Oxford History of Music, “Mussorgsky, in his vocal efforts, appears willfully eccentric. His style impresses the Western ear as barbarously ugly.” However, after the premiere, views on Mussorgsky’s music changed drastically. Gerald Abraham, a musicologist, and an authority on Mussorgsky: “As a musical translator of words and all that can be expressed in words, of psychological states, and even physical movement, he is unsurpassed; as an absolute musician he was hopelessly limited, with remarkably little ability to construct pure music or even a purely musical texture.”

 

— Roger W. Smith

    July 2017

 

 

 

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Movements

 

1 Promenade

2 No. 1 “The Gnome”

3 Promenade (2nd)

4 No. 2 “The Old Castle”

5 Promenade (3rd)

6 No. 3 “Tuileries (Children’s Quarrel after Games)”

7 No. 4 “Cattle”

8 Promenade (4th)

9 No. 5 “Ballet of Unhatched Chicks”

10 No. 6 “Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle”

11 Promenade (5th)

12 No. 7 “Limoges. The Market (The Great News)”

13 No. 8 “Catacombs (Roman Tomb)”\

14. Con mortuis in lingua mortua

15 No. 9 “The Hut on Hen’s Legs (Baba Yaga)”

16 No. 10 “The Bogatyr Gates (In the Capital in Kiev)”

 

 

 

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