Nowadays, the "fusion" of artistic forms is a fully integrated and accepted part of our cultural landscape. It could be a video combined with a soundtrack, or a performance blending dance and theater, for example. However, when Mussorgsky composed his Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874, it was a true revolution!
In 1873, Mussorgsky was mourning the death of his friend, the painter Viktor Hartmann. He took part in organizing an exhibition in tribute to the deceased artist, and it was this event that inspired his Pictures at an Exhibition. He sought to translate the sensations evoked by the paintings into music, thus creating a kind of fusion between music and visual art. This suite consists of ten pieces inspired by the paintings, and five Promenades, symbolizing the observer's movement from one painting to another. Moreover, the work is highly experimental! The numerous dissonant chords that characterize the composition seem to reflect the composer's pain, and the percussive use of the piano, in particular, breaks completely with Romantic tradition, opening the doors to 19th-century music. Thus, through this composition, Mussorgsky seals an inseparable union between friendship and artistic ties.
The most famous version of Pictures at an Exhibition is undoubtedly the orchestration by Maurice Ravel in 1922, which allowed the score to find its place in the most prestigious concert halls around the world.
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“[...] sounds and ideas hung in the air, I am gulping and overeating, and can barely manage to scribble them on paper.” With these words, in a letter dated June 1874, Mussorgsky describes the writing process of his Pictures at an Exhibition, as if his work was dictated to him by an invisible voice. It may be the memory of his friend Viktor A. Hartmann which inspired him. In fact, they shared this artistic vision together, and Pictures at an Exhibition was born to celebrate his deceased friend and his watercolors. Drawing inspiration from Hartmann's painting, Mussorgsky makes an innovative synthesis of figurative arts and symphonic art. That is what Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition are: a work that delights all five senses! Come and enjoy Mussorgsky’s works on medici.tv, when you want, where you want!