Modest Mussorgsky was a close friend of the young artist and architect Victor Hartmann, and his death in 1873 plunged Mossorgsky into a deep depression. The following year a memorial exhibition in St. Petersburg displayed Hartmann’s paintings, costumes, architectural designs and sketches. Mussorgsky’s visit to it, combined with his desire to write a piece in his friend’s memory, inspired him to compose his Pictures At An Exhibition for piano. A suite of ten movements, with a recurring Promenade theme, it is one of the composer’s most famous works and regarded as a showpiece for virtuoso pianists. It is perhaps the orchestral transcription made by Maurice Ravel in 1922 that is now the most famous version of it.
This arrangement opens with a brief excerpt from The Hut on Fowl’s Legs , which was based on a painting of an elaborately carved clock depicting Baba Yaga, a horrible tiny witch that feasts on human bones. The tenth, and final picture in Mussorgsky’s masterpiece is commonly referred to as The Great Gate of Kiev , although it’s literal translation is The Bogatyr Gates — a Bogatyr being a hero figure in medieval East Slavic legend. It features a grand main theme that is interspersed with a more solemn hymn-like secondary theme. The work closes with a grand final rendition of the Promenade theme that almost grinds to a halt at what must be the foot of what were to be magnificent ceremonial gates (although they were never actually built!).
Item Code: TPBB-045
Duration: c. 6'00"
Grade: 2nd Section and above