Sunday, August 6, 2017

Modest Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition

Late 19th century Russia saw a rebellion against the French influenced culture imported by Czars from Peter the Great through Catherine the Great and beyond.  Artists sought a return to Russian roots.  A group of composers called "The Five" (Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Borodin, Cesar Cui, and Mily Balakirev) formed a loose confederation aimed at the creation of a specifically Russian form of music.

The sudden death (at quite a young age) of Viktor Hartmann (one of Mussorgsky's friends) resulted in an exposition of Hartmann's paintings.  Mussorgsky was inspired to compose a suite of ten movements based on scenes from Hartmann's memorial exposition.  While many of the paintings were done while Hartmann was outside Russia, Mussorgsky's music is perhaps the quintessential Russian music.  Arguably, it approaches the Platonic ideal of Russian music.

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer recorded a version of this in 1970, on their album "Pictures At An Exhibition".

1 comment:

libertyman said...

Great post. If anything sounds Russian, this sure does. I bought the ELP record (ELP -LP?) having never heard the classical Pictures at an Exhibition.
Great talent and very much missed.