Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sunday Classics preview: Preparing for our first encounter with Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition"


The first and second "promenades" bracket the first "picture" in Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in this August 2006 Proms concert.

by Ken

All told, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition doesn't run much more than a half-hour. So why are we splitting it in two? (As I mentioned last night, we are splitting it in two -- the first half in tomorrow's post, the second half next week.) Simple: I want to "slow the music down." These miniatures are remarkably precisely etched, but they are miniatures, and can pass in not much more than the blink of an eye. I know that the music tends to blur for me, and I thought it might be helpful to others as well to, well, slow the thing down.

We're going to be considering three versions of Pictures: Mussorgsky's solo-piano original, the near-standard orchestral version produced by the great composer Maurice Ravel, and a quite different orchestral version produced by the orchestral wizard Leopold Stokowski -- though in tonight's and next Saturday's previews we're going to limit our listening to the first two.

Right away we're going to sample a performance I think you'll agree is radically different from the one we just heard. To my hearing, the differences have much less to do with the different "media" -- piano original vs. Ravel orchestration -- than with these particular performers' radically different ways of hearing and imagining the music.

This chunk of Pictures, from a live performance given in the ancient Roman theater of Orange, goes farther into the suite than the Salonen clip above, running not quite through the second picture, "The Old Castle."



Labels: , ,


At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Ken, I already learned a few things in this first part, or was reminded of things I'd heard; either way, enjoyed listening.

At 10:07 PM, Blogger Wraxtiorre said...

Yep, the pianist approaches the music in a linear presentation as a sequence of unbroken segments, while the conductor can present the music temporally within a linear framework. The orchestral version allows the conductor(or scorer/composer) more liberty to give each segment a unique voice.


Post a Comment

<< Home