Modest Mussorgsky

Pictures at an Exhibition (Kartinki s vïstavski), for piano

    Description by Uncle Dave Lewis

    Victor Hartmann, a Russian painter and architect, was one of Mussorgsky's close friends. When Hartmann died in St. Petersburg in 1873 at the age of 41, the composer was crushed. He wrote to the art critic Vladimir Stasov, paraphrasing Shakespeare: "Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, and the Hartmanns perish?" In January 1874, the Russian Academy of Arts organized an exhibition of Hartmann's work. Mussorgsky attended the show, where he saw the varied images that became the basis for Pictures of an Exhibition. On June 2, Mussorgsky began work on Pictures, a musical impression of ten of Hartmann's paintings (plus five "promenades") for piano, and finished the work later in the same month.

    Pictures of an Exhibition opens with a "Promenade" in 5/4 that serves as a unifying device throughout; it is a portrayal of the composer himself walking from one painting to the next. The first picture is "Gnomus," inspired by a design for a toy nutcracker that Hartmann drew in 1869. Another promenade is followed by "The Old Castle," a mysterious, lonely evocation built on pedal tones. "Tuileries" is inspired by a watercolor of children at play in the garden of the Tuileries. This bright and impressionistic piece is followed by the heavy tread of "Bydlo" (a Polish oxcart). Mussorgsky's setting of "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" is a wildly imaginative scherzo. A stern melody in a Jewish-music-derived scale opens "Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle," in which a wealthy Jew is portrayed by an insistent repeating figure in the treble, a poor Jew in the bass. The rapid patter of haggling housewives characterizes "The Market Place in Limoges." In another sudden change in mood, "Catacombs," which pictures Hartmann himself touring a vast catacomb of skulls, is rendered in naked chord progressions. "The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba-Yaga)" was inspired by Hartmann's design for a fourteenth century-style clock in the shape of a witch's hat. Mussorgsky transforms it into a miniature tone poem about Baba Yaga, the legendary Russian witch who devoured the souls of children. After a grand flourish, the work ends with "The Great Gate of Kiev," inspired by a never-implemented design Hartmann submitted to an architecture competition. Pictures of an Exhibition comes to a close with rich, booming chords which evoke bells.

    Although Mussorgsky is known to have played Pictures of an Exhibition in recital, the work did not appear in print until 1886, five years after the composer's death. It remained relatively little known until Ravel made a colorful orchestration of it in 1922, and in this form it has enjoyed even greater popularity than the original.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Promenade
    2. The Gnome [Gnomus]
    3. Promenade
    4. The Old Castle [Il vecchio castello]
    5. Promenade
    6. Dispute between children at play [Tuileries]
    7. The Ox-Cart [Bydlo]
    8. Promenade
    9. Ballet of the unhatched chicks
    10. Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle
    11. Promenade
    12. The Market at Limoges [Limoges, le marché]
    13. The Catacombs [Sepulchrum Romanum]
    14. Cum mortuis in lingua mortua
    15. Baba-Yaga [La cabane sur des pattes de poules]
    16. The Great Gate of Kiev

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Sony Classical 88875170032
    2016 Tacet TACET 1325
    2016 CAvi-music AVI 8553332
    2016 Praga / Praga Digitals PRD 350076
    2016 Exton 52
    2016 Centaur Records CRC 3517
    2016 Decca / Philips 4788977
    2016 Steinway & Sons STNS 30042
    2016 Gramola GRAM 99083
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4794350
    2015 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 88875127202
    2015 Bella Musica
    2015 Bella Musica BM 312464
    2015 ABC Classics ABC 48119639
    2015 Decca / London
    2015 Harmonia Mundi HMC 902096
    2015 Warner Classics 552763
    2015 Gramola GRAM 99074
    2015 Cedille Records CDR 153
    2015 Signum Classics SIGCD 426
    2014 Myrios Classics MYRSACD 13
    2014 Dreyer-Gaido CD 21085
    2014 Brilliant Classics 94931BR
    2014 Piano Classics PCL 0063
    2014 Champs Hill Records CHRCD 079
    2014 GPR Records 50013
    2014 Genuin GEN 14326
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002100
    2013 Naxos 8573178
    2013 RCA Red Seal 88725484402
    2013 MSR Classics MS 1501
    2013 Genuin GEN 13283
    2013 Orfeo C 882132B
    2013 Hyperion CDA 67896
    2013 Quartz QTZ 2099
    2013 Naxos NBD 0036
    2013 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4790088
    2013 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Ars Produktion ARS 38125
    2013 Naïve NC 40036
    2013 Nimbus Alliance NI 6211
    2013 Crystal Records Dist. 780
    2013 Atma / ATMA Classique ACD 22687
    2013 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 88725462392
    2013 Decca 4785093
    2012 EMI Classics 5099967908
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 LP Classics 1005
    2012 Honens 201202
    2012 Mirare MIR 170
    2012 Phaia Music PHU 01516
    2012 Hyperion CDH 55306
    2012 Onyx ONYX 4085
    2012 Romeo Records 72934
    2012 Champs Hill Records CHRCD 030
    2012 Orfeo C 869122B
    2012 TwoPianists TP 1039114
    2012 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290838587
    2011 Genuin GEN11199
    2011 Universal
    2011 Universal
    2011 Enharmonic ENCD 1119
    2011 Decca
    2011 Challenge Classics CC 72526
    2011 Piano Classics PCL 0023
    2011 Chandos CHAN10676
    2011 Naïve V 5199
    2011 Piano Classics PCL0004
    2011 Documents 233080
    2011 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4779527
    2011 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2010 Gall (formerly Gallo) 1297
    2010 Decca 4782638
    2010 Decca
    2010 Fab Four 232920
    2010 Phil.Harmonie 06001
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    2010 Raumklang 2903
    2010 Signum Classics / Signum UK 226
    2010 Bridge 9320
    2010 Cambria 1174
    2010 Genuin 10179
    2009 Con Brio 251
    2009 Oehms Classics 632
    2009 Danacord 656
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93911
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099996700
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099969836
    2009 Pentatone Classics 5186355
    2009 RCA Red Seal 88697538852
    2009 Rca Red Seal 749925
    2009 Sony Music Distribution 88697575002
    2008 BBC Legends / BBC Music 42382
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 MSR Classics 1270
    2008 BIS 1580
    2008 Rca Red Seal 68560
    2008 Philips 442650
    2008 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4696262
    2008 Berlin Classics 0149352
    2008 Urania 4262
    2008 Harmonia Mundi HMA1951616
    2008 Blue Griffin Recording 169
    2008 Endeavour Classics 1024
    2008 ePay.bg 7973667
    2008 Regent 267
    2008 Analekta 22003
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 Brilliant 93761
    2007 EMI Classics 97695
    2007 Eroica Distribution 3303
    2007 Bluthner 2003MI01
    2007 Endeavour Classics 1022
    2007 Decca
    2007 Decca 000797302
    2007 Altara Music 1013
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93297
    2007 Brilliant 93180
    2006 Doremi Records 71150
    2006 IU Music 5001
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    2004 GSP Recordings 1026
    2004 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41602
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    2003 Delta Distribution 40040
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    2003 Urtext 64
    2002 Real Sound (RS) 145
    2002 Orfeo 284021
    2002 Legacy 89615
    2002 RCA 63884
    2002 Berlin Classics 0094642
    2002 Urania 191
    2002 Analekta 23122
    2002 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41032
    2002 Praga 356020-34
    2002 Accord 472592
    2002 Andante 2980
    2002 Aca Digital 20074
    2001 Philips 464734
    2001 Decca 289 467 746
    2001 Ornament 11451
    2001 Harmonia Mundi HMA195 1266
    2001 Naxos 8110668
    2001 Rca Red Seal 84594
    2001 Centaur Records 2753
    2001 Cypres 9612
    2001 Dorian 90293
    2001 Dutton Laboratories 6802
    2000 Tahra 199200
    2000 BIS 988
    2000 Motette 12501
    2000 Virgin 59611
    2000 Nimbus 5645
    2000 DG Deutsche Grammophon 469169
    2000 Amphion 125
    2000 Pro Organo 7084
    2000 Columbia River Entertainment Group 315004
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    1999 Ivory Records IC70903
    1999 RCA 68997
    1999 Philips 454987
    1999 Philips 462776
    1999 Masterpiece 7203
    1999 Hyperion 55003
    1999 Novalis 150152
    1999 Chandos 9672
    1999 BIS 905
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    1999 Intersound 3856
    1999 Athene 17
    1999 Angel Records 56836B
    1999 Nimbus 1748
    1999 Music & Arts 775
    1998 Melodiya 52959
    1998 Harmonia Mundi 926016
    1998 Hyperion 67018
    1998 Philips 456946
    1998 Intersound 3847
    1998 MDG 3200818
    1998 RCA Red Seal 902668442
    1997 RAP Productions 1905471
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 5697052
    1997 Arbiter ARBITER108
    1997 Calliope 9228
    1997 DG Deutsche Grammophon 437 667-2GH
    1997 Arte Nova 74321 46496-2
    1997 Dorian 99117
    1997 Rivoalto 9601
    1997 Harmonia Mundi HMC90 1616
    1996 Dorian 98103
    1996 Harmonia Mundi HMT790 1266
    1996 Pearl 9192
    1996 Apollo Music 607
    1996 ERI 711
    1996 Melodiya 29460
    1996 Koch International Classics 37344
    1996 Praga 354001.15
    1995 Eroica Distribution 3004
    1995 Nimbus 7706
    1995 Centaur Records 2051
    1995 Capriccio Records 10408
    1995 APR (Appian) 7022
    1995 ZYX Music 4018
    1995 Antes Edition 319050
    1994 Praga 254034
    1994 Philips 434346
    1994 Naxos 550044
    1994 Laserlight 14146
    1994 BIS 16
    1994 MusicMasters 67142
    1994 VAI Audio 1048
    1993 Dorian 90117
    1993 Philips 438 905-2PH
    1992 RCA 60526
    1992 Delos 1008
    1992 RG 60321
    1991 RCA 60576
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 46481
    1990 RCA 60449
    1990 London 414 386-2DH
    Supraphon 112194
    P&P Classica
    The Piano Library 246
    APR (Appian) 7005
    Classical Records 052
    Adda 242752
    Philips Classics 454167
    GM Recordings 2024
    Sonar Records 9705
    Ondine 753
    Priory Records 262
    Meyer Media 07009
    Performance 7
    Ades 14166
    MSR Records 1188
    Naim 64
    Ambitus 97910
    Fono Enterprise 97750
    Accord 202152
    Philips 420156
    Philips 432051
    Philips 4267562
    All Russia
    Schwann 11050
    Supraphon 111845
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 435616
    Collins Records 1227
    Teldec
    Historical Performers 24
    RCA 5931
    Pro-Arte Records 453
    Polskie Nagrania 026
    FSM Adagio 97742
    Denon Records 79046
    Lyrinx 137
    Legend 152
    Legend 112
    Emergo 3993
    Bourg Records 8
    Melodiya 29469
    Multisonic 310271
    IMP Classics 1087
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 431972
    Nimbus 5187
    EMI Music Distribution 53232
    MDG MDG610 1016-2
    Disques Montaigne 8941
    Arlecchino 101
    Intersound 544
    Doyen 011
    Cypres 9612-5
    Agora Musica 006
    Museum Music 141
    Mark Masters 5389
    Stradivari 6122
    Collins Records 12762
    Memories 4436
    RCA 60321
    Manchester 106
    Masters of Art 94062
    Arlecchino 13
    K-Tel Distribution 3807002
    Brilliant 93180/16