Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel)

This is currently one of my sister's very favorite pieces. She wants to be a conductor, so I got her the score for her birthday, haha!
Mussorgsky was inspired to write this oddball 'suite' when his artist friend passed away. There was a memorial exhibition of his best works, and Modest wrote pieces after them to honor his friend. Very sweet!

Lovely brass work! Also, the opening theme is also a fragment of the last movement, The Great Gate of Kiev!

This one is kind of creepy! It is based off a picture of a spooky little gnome with legs so short he uses his arms to walk. There's some cool celesta riffs. Celesta usually sounds sweet and heavenly, but here it's creepy! Though this movement is macabre, it seems so in a light hearted way.

Here's the Kiev theme again, but this time it's not as bright and joyful as the first time. Rather, it sounds thoughtful, like a person browsing the art gallery, or Modest remembering his deceased friend as he looks at the exhibition.

The Old Castle
This picture was of a man standing below a window (of a castle, duh) and serenading his lover. The mood is brooding and almost morose, with a romantic solo for alto saxophone. Makes me think of a moonlit night. Maybe their love is forbidden and they can only see each other at night. That's part of what I love about Pictures at an Exhibition, the titles give you enough to place a scene or character, but other then that they're vague. Imagination fuel!

My sister would like to point out the constantly changing time signatures in this promenade (once again pompus and happy). Crazy!

This painting depicts happy children playing in a garden in Paris. The mood is playful, but a little cheeky, as the children quarrel a little amongst themselves!

A peasant rides is oxen-drawn wagon, whilst singing a typically Russian folk tune. In this movement, you can totally feel the movement of the wagon wheels! Very good musical painting! Tuba seems to get the melody towards the end too, haha.

Aw, a sweet variation on the Kiev theme, with tranquil flutes and the other woodwinds. And what the deuce, 7/4 time.

Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks
Okay, so there was a ballet featuring little chicks, and it's very fun, haha! The music sounds a little disoriented, like they can't see where they're going because they haven't all the way hatched! Very playful!

Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle
Here we have two guys, one is rich, one is poor, and the music contrasts their personalities. There is kind of a weird Trumpet part, that sounds like a high, nasaly voice. A good example of character writing!

Limoges, The Market Place
Haha, this picture was of a bunch of women gossiping and having a good time at a marketplace. You can almost see the busting around.

Catacombs (Roman Sepulchre/Con Mortuis in Lingua Mortua)
We segue RIGHT into Catacombs from the last one. These two movements are joined together and are basically the same one. There are a lot of massive, harsh chords, contrasted with a mysterious trumpet solo. It sounds like you just discovered, well, catacombs. It's like you're on an adventure, and maybe you meet a ghost or something. The second part of the Catacombs is a little more tender, like what scared you a lot before turns out to not be so threatening.

Baba Yaga: The Hut on Chicken Legs
Yesss! This is a great movement, with stabby strings, crazy woodwind riffs, and terrific, threatening brass. This is based off of a Russian fairy tale character called Baba Yaga. She's a witch that lives in a house on, well, Chicken Legs, it jumps over the forest looking for human bones to devour! Yikes. I love the opening. It sounds like, Oh crud we've gotta run!

The Great Gate of Kiev
A maddening scale segues directly into the triumphant finale- celebrating the Gate of Kiev! The brass section is amazing here, hat tip to them! The jubilant parts contrast with more thoughtful woodwind interludes. I really like how the piece develops and it is really exciting by the end! A stirring end!

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