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Topic: Mussorgsky- Pictures at an Exhibition  (Read 9955 times)

Offline dnephi

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Mussorgsky- Pictures at an Exhibition
on: November 14, 2006, 08:28:50 PM
What do you know of this piece? 

1. It is a piece of program music-a series of episodes all flowing into one another continually.
2. It is approximately a half hour long.
3. It's by Mussorgsky
4. It has been orchestrated by both Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov, the latter being superior.

Is it very difficult?
Is it showy?
Any stories about it, perhaps?
For us musicians, the music of Beethoven is the pillar of fire and cloud of mist which guided the Israelites through the desert.  (Roughly quoted, Franz Liszt.)

Offline iumonito

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Re: Mussorgsky- Pictures at an Exhibition
Reply #1 on: November 14, 2006, 09:53:18 PM
I know I disagree with you in three of your four items.

It is not really program music, as they are based on paintings, rather than stories.  We agree they have a meta-musical inspiration.

I have never heard it in half an hour, and have heard it many a time in closer to 45 min.

I do not think R-K's orchestration is better than Ravel's.  Others have had their hands at it, including Ashkenhazy.  I like the piano version best.

Difficult, but not in obvious ways.  The end of Gnomus, the marketplace episode and Baba-Yaga, in obvious ways as well.

Irresistible.  Certainly profound.  It is, after all, a memorial.

You will play it better if you also study Boris Godunov.
Alfred's edition is pretty scholarly, although somewhat controversial.
Money does not make happiness, but it can buy you a piano.  :)

Offline dnephi

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Re: Mussorgsky- Pictures at an Exhibition
Reply #2 on: November 15, 2006, 12:03:37 AM
Well I don't know.  My only recording is the Berezovsky 1995 Cambridge, which is 28 minutes.  I don't know if that's an error on the computer or if that's just Berezovsky being insane. 

Thank you for your insight.  And for the record, no, I am not attempting this piece at this time, but enjoy it purely as a listener.

Daniel
For us musicians, the music of Beethoven is the pillar of fire and cloud of mist which guided the Israelites through the desert.  (Roughly quoted, Franz Liszt.)

Offline desordre

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Re: Mussorgsky- Pictures at an Exhibition
Reply #3 on: November 15, 2006, 01:41:34 AM
 Dear Iumonito:
 In my turn, I have to disagree with you in one of your items.
 According to Mr. Scruton, who wrote the article "Programme Music" in the New Grove Dictionary, it is:

 "Music of a narrative or descriptive kind; the term is often extended to all music that attempts to represent extra-musical concepts without resort to sung words."

 So, you don't need a literary source to write programatic music.
 By the way, 100% agree about the rest.
 Best!
Player of what?

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Mussorgsky- Pictures at an Exhibition
Reply #4 on: November 15, 2006, 02:36:53 AM
what struck me immediately about this piece when i heard barry douglas perform it in 1986 or thereabouts - was the orchestration that he brought out from it on the piano.  i'd never heard a pianistically 'orchestrated piece.'  there are so many different tempos, dynamics, chord structures, harmonies - that it is one of the greatest 'experimental' pieces out there to see what you can get from your piano.  i think leopold stokowski's original conducting of this piece is the best and barry douglas puts it into perspective on the piano.  i now prefer the piano version - whereas, before - i liked the orchestral much better (ravel's).  now, rimsky-korsakov was no slouch when it came to orchestrating - but if my memory serves me right - stokowski conducted ravel's version. 

in any case - what i see in this piece is a 'massive stone.' if you can pick it up and carry it a ways - you're probably a half-way decent pianist.  if you can pick it up adn carry it to the end - you're a mighty weight lifter. 

something else that appeals to me is that in russia they have these incredible russian-orthodox choirs - with basso profundos.  so the bass is always such a thing i can hear.  you can literally hear the humming of the bass line in some parts as the basses are singing something similar to the volga boat song.  if you ever get a chance to hear the voice of ivan rebrov - you'll never forget it.  there is something innate in the russian character that just has music dripping from all sides.  like a glass of wine filled too full.  you can't help but go away from it - feeling a bit tipsy.  something else i want to say - is that russians seem to have an innate sense of PITCH (especially int eh BASS) and you can hear something other than a buzz or nonsense sounds.  you can hear from the low to the high ranges - and, for me - the thrill is in the pitches of the piano as much as the piece itself.  maybe it's that they understand resonance better?  church bells or something?

ps i also like to hear nationalistic music that contains folk elements of the country it represents.  i love to hear grieg because he expresses that norwegian element so well.  i think mussorgsky does the same for the russian landscape.  you can almost see russia in his music.

Offline alzado

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Re: Mussorgsky- Pictures at an Exhibition
Reply #5 on: November 18, 2006, 03:38:37 PM
I have always had problems trying to play this piece.  Some of the chord progressions seem awkward, and my fingers do not seem to want to reposition well to pick up some of the chord sequences.  It seems . . . well . . . clumsy.

It is said that Moussorgsky was not himself enough of a piano virtuoso to write the piece alone, and had to solicit help from better pianists to build some of the musical structure.  I get a feeling from this work that Moussorgsky knew what he wanted by way of sound and structure, but didn't know the piano well enough to write in a reasonable way at that level of difficulty.

Chopin, no matter how difficult his pieces, always show some sensitivity to the human hand, human fingers, and the positioning required for rapid play.  Ditto for Rachmaninoff, although his stretches can be a bit unreasonable at times.
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