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  1. #1
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    Pictures at an Exhibition

    Before I attended music school, I was first introduced to this piece by the well-known 1971 cover from ELP. I then bought the Deutsche Grammophon vinyl release of the Mussorsky classic and have loved it ever since...........it is the best example, I believe, of the "tone poem" structure.
    During 1977, I spent many days transcribing this work for 12-piece percussion ensemble while in school and although some sections sounded terrific, some did not..........perhaps I had the wrong vehicle.
    After all my exposure and memorization of this work (40 years now), I will finally get to see it performed by symphony for the first time this month on Saturday the 16th.
    I know every note and I am really looking forward to this performance.
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  2. #2
    Musicaholic Forums Moderator ForeverAutumn's Avatar
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    Wow. That sounds like an awesome experience for you MC. Just close your eyes and enjoy the music. And remember...air drumming is frowned upon at a symphony performance.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    I enjoyed your post. I also enjoyed the ELP recording. One day while walking through Peaches Record store I saw a record called Pictures at an Exhibition in the classical section. I bought and began my love of classical music.

    Hearing it performed in a good hall would be incredible. Have a great time and let us know how it was. Are they going to use the Ravel orchestration?

    Mussorgsky wrote the piano transcription and never orchestrated it as I am sure you know. One of my favorite recordings is Evgeny Kissin playing "Pictures" solo on the piano. I bought it planning to be disappointed but have really enjoyed it. The tone colors
    have held up very nicely.
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  4. #4
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    And remember...air drumming is frowned upon at a symphony performance.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Thanks for the tip......I'll not embarrass myself.





    Are they going to use the Ravel orchestration?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Oui.
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    Briefing

    Pictures at an Exhibition


    Modest Mussorgsky
    b. Karevo, Russia / March 21, 1839; d. St. Petersburg, Russia / March 28, 1881
    Orchestrated by Maurice Ravel

    Mussorgsky met Victor Hartmann, a brilliant young artist and architect, in 1862. They quickly became close friends, drawn together by the free wheeling creative spirit they shared, and by their common faith in the value of folk art. The 39-year-old Hartmannís death from a heart attack in 1873 plunged Mussorgsky into a deep depression.

    The following year, a memorial exhibition was held in St. Petersburg, displaying over 400 of Hartmannís paintings, costumes, architectural designs and sketches for ornamental household objects. Mussorgskyís visit to that display, combined with his desire to compose a piece in his friendís memory, led to the creation of the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.

    Although it is without doubt his finest piano work, its colorful nature cries out for the rich palette of instrumental effects which only an orchestra can provide. The most popular setting is the one devised by Maurice Ravel, on commission from Russian conductor Serge Koussevitzky. The first performance took place at the Paris Opera, under Koussevitzkyís direction, on October 19, 1922.

    The suite opens with a majestic theme called Promenade, depicting visitors strolling between displays. It recurs, in different scoring, at several early points in the music. The first picture, The Gnome, describes in vivid fashion a grotesque nutcracker which Hartmann designed as a childrenís Christmas present. Hartmannís watercolor painting The Old Castle portrays a troubadour serenading his loved one by moonlight; the melancholy tone implies that his attempts at wooing prove unsuccessful. Ravel gives the main theme, most effectively, to the doleful voice of the alto saxophone.

    Tuileries is a miniature scherzo, depicting children and their nurses strolling gracefully through a Parisian garden. The sombre voice of the solo tuba takes centre stage in Bydlo, which follows the lumbering approach and retreat of a Polish oxcart with large, heavy wheels. This is followed by another light scherzo, The Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells. Mussorgskyís inspiration was Hartmannís costume sketch for a ballet, Trilby, in which dancers were dressed in large eggshells topped by the heads of canaries.

    Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle describes two Polish Jews whom Hartmann had sketched in pencil while visiting that country. The first fellow is rich and pompous (low strings), the second poor and excitable (muted trumpet). After a bustling portrait of the marketplace in the French city of Limoges (complete with a raucous dispute between rival female vegetable vendors), the scene switches abruptly to Catacombs (A Roman Sepulchre), a stark, menacing portrait of an ancient underground tomb. In the second half of this section, With the Dead in a Dead Language, the music drops to a ghostly whisper for an eerie vision of skulls glowing in the dark.

    Next comes a dynamic, phantasmagoric picture of Baba Yaga, the evil witch of Russian folklore, who flies about in a magic hut built on chickenís legs. Hartmann used this image as the design for an elaborate clock. The suite concludes with a stirring evocation of Hartmannís plan for an immense stone gate, in the massive old Russian style with a crown in the shape of a Slavonic helmet. It was intended for the Ukrainian city of Kiev but was never built. By way of compensation, Mussorgsky and Ravel together constructed upon its spirit a grander work than any tradesmen could ever hope to build. For sheer orchestral spectacle, The Great Gate at Kiev has few rivals.
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  6. #6
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    Lucky you! It's one of my favorite pieces, but I've never heard it live.
    "Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony."
    ------Heraclitus of Ephesis (fl. 504-500 BC), trans. Wheelwright.

  7. #7
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    Submitted for your approval sir...

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael
    Mussorgsky wrote the piano transcription and never orchestrated it as I am sure you know. One of my favorite recordings is Evgeny Kissin playing "Pictures" solo on the piano. I bought it planning to be disappointed but have really enjoyed it. The tone colors
    have held up very nicely.
    http://www.allmusic.com/album/mousso...d-sacd-w131217
    So, I broke into the palace
    With a sponge and a rusty spanner
    She said : "Eh, I know you, and you cannot sing"
    I said : "That's nothing - you should hear me play piano"

  8. #8
    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    One of the first pieces I bought when I got into classical music. I remember a few of my favorites from music appreciation class in 10th grade. I liked the CD, but when I got the vinyl. Well you know...........Name:  611EoK4UDGL__SL500_AA300_.jpg
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  9. #9
    Audio Hobbyist Since 1969 Glen B's Avatar
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    Ahhh, Pictures at an Exhibition is one of my favorites. I have the Dorian Recordings organ transcription CD, Jean Guillou, organist, and The Helios CD, Arthur Wills, organist.




  10. #10
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    Good thread and a great pc of music. Dusty Chalk pointed out the ELP version in a discussion about Greg Lake years ago.

    Don't forget this interesting take...


  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyfi
    Good thread and a great pc of music. Dusty Chalk pointed out the ELP version in a discussion about Greg Lake years ago.

    Don't forget this interesting take...
    Wow.......I've never seen that one......someone put in an aweful lot of work on that.
    Very cool............but kinda' creepy too.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MasterCylinder
    Wow.......I've never seen that one......someone put in an aweful lot of work on that.
    Very cool............but kinda' creepy too.
    That is part of a project called Animusic. Everything is digital including the music. I have both DVDs they have out and they are incredible.

    Glad ya liked it!

  13. #13
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    The ELP version of Pix at Ex was the very first album my brother and I bought when we first started pooling our allowance money and buying records. I was 12 or 13.

    My current version on CD is the Cleveland Symphony / Maazel /Telarc (w/ Bald Mountain), recommended years ago on this very board (I think by PatD).

    http://www.amazon.com/Moussorgsky-Ni.../dp/B000003CSH
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  14. #14
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MasterCylinder
    Before I attended music school, I was first introduced to this piece by the well-known 1971 cover from ELP. I then bought the Deutsche Grammophon vinyl release of the Mussorsky classic and have loved it ever since...........it is the best example, I believe, of the "tone poem" structure.
    During 1977, I spent many days transcribing this work for 12-piece percussion ensemble while in school and although some sections sounded terrific, some did not..........perhaps I had the wrong vehicle.
    After all my exposure and memorization of this work (40 years now), I will finally get to see it performed by symphony for the first time this month on Saturday the 16th.
    I know every note and I am really looking forward to this performance.
    Unfortunately I don't recall that I've ever heard it live; (if so it was a very long time ago).

    I have three versions:
    • Piano by Byron Janis on Mercury Living Presence
    • Orchestral, (orchestration by Maurice Ravel), by Antal Dorati & Minneapolis Symphony on the same MLP recording
    • Orchestral, (Ravel), by Lorin Maazel & Cleveland Orch. on Telarc
    I can recommend either of the above for performance and sound.


  15. #15
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael
    Mussorgsky wrote the piano transcription and never orchestrated it as I am sure you know. One of my favorite recordings is Evgeny Kissin playing "Pictures" solo on the piano. I bought it planning to be disappointed but have really enjoyed it. The tone colors
    have held up very nicely.
    That's interesting, JM. I received both the Kissin and the Fritz Reiner for Christmas one year. At the time, I was more interested in the orchestral so the Kissin has been waiting patiently. I need to give it a chance.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr MidFi
    The ELP version of Pix at Ex was the very first album my brother and I bought when we first started pooling our allowance money and buying records. I was 12 or 13.

    My current version on CD is the Cleveland Symphony / Maazel /Telarc (w/ Bald Mountain), recommended years ago on this very board (I think by PatD).

    http://www.amazon.com/Moussorgsky-Ni.../dp/B000003CSH
    The Maazel/Cleveland recording on Telarc is a good one, though not my favorite, very well recorded and dynamic. It may have been hifitommy who recommended it. I don't have a copy but have borrowed it from the local library. When we visited mtrycrafts some years ago, we heard it on his system, and it sounded quite good over it, too.

    My favorite recording is actually the old Ansermet/Suisse Romande Orchestra. This is one of the CDs of it I have, but there is a newer reissue.

    http://www.amazon.com/Pictures-at-Ex...5&sr=1-2-spell

    As is usual with the old Decca/London stereo recordings of that vintage, the sound is very spacious, though the bass is present but not as robust as on the Telarc recording. However, the characterization of each picture is the best I have heard, and the Great Gate at Kiev is petty spectacular.

    Some have mentioned the classic Reiner recording, and I like it, too. The 1966 Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic recording has also been regarded as a classic. It is an individual performance and certainly deserves consideration. It is slightly more leisurely than the Ansermet performance (so is the Reiner) but the manner is grand with good characterization. Bolero is thrown in, too. The sound quality is excellent. I have it on LP, DG 139010. However, it is available on CD on DG Originals and the Penguin Guide still likes it quite a lot.The cover picture is the same as on my LP jacket. You also get Debussy's La Mer and that Ravel thing, you know, Bolero. It looks like a good deal.

    http://www.amazon.com/Ravel-Debussy-...2463455&sr=1-1
    "Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony."
    ------Heraclitus of Ephesis (fl. 504-500 BC), trans. Wheelwright.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat D
    The Maazel/Cleveland recording on Telarc is a good one, though not my favorite, very well recorded and dynamic. It may have been hifitommy who recommended it.
    Good to see you, Pat. Yes, I've always been a sucker for dynamics. My only quibble with the Cleveland recording is that the different sections/movements aren't broken into tracks... it's an all-or-nothing listen.
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