Modest Mussorgsky, a pioneering Russian composer, is best known for his ability to evoke vivid imagery and deep emotion through music. “Pictures at an Exhibition” is one of his most celebrated works, originally composed for solo piano in 1874. This suite was inspired by the artworks of Mussorgsky’s friend, the architect and painter Viktor Hartmann, whose sudden death deeply affected the composer. The music serves as a tribute to Hartmann, capturing the essence of his artworks in a series of musical vignettes.

The transcription for piano, violin, viola, cello, and flute brings a new dimension to this masterwork, adding rich textural layers and expanding its tonal palette. This version retains the original’s emotional depth and vivid character while exploring the interplay between strings, winds, and piano.

Movements and Descriptions:

  1. Promenade – The recurring Promenade theme represents the composer strolling through the exhibition, reflecting on each piece of art.
  2. Gnomus – Depicts a grotesque gnome, inspired by a sketch of an eerie nutcracker.
  3. The Old Castle – Evokes a melancholic medieval castle, with the flute emulating a troubadour’s song.
  4. Tuileries (Children’s Quarrel after Games) – Captures the lively atmosphere of the Tuileries Gardens, filled with playful children.
  5. Bydło – Represents an ox-cart trudging along, conveyed through a heavy, plodding rhythm.
  6. Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks – A whimsical portrayal of chicks dancing in their shells, filled with playful energy.
  7. “Samuel” Goldenberg and “Schmuÿle” – A contrast between two characters, one rich and pompous, the other poor and pleading.
  8. Limoges. The Market (The Great News) – Depicts a bustling French marketplace, full of animated chatter.
  9. Catacombs (Roman Tomb) – A somber reflection on mortality, leading into the eerie “Cum mortuis in lingua mortua” (With the Dead in a Dead Language).
  10. The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (Baba Yaga) – A wild and frenetic depiction of the witch Baba Yaga’s hut, leading into the suite’s grand finale.
  11. The Great Gate of Kiev – A majestic and triumphant conclusion, inspired by Hartmann’s design for a grand city gate.
Scroll to top