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Purdue Orchestra paints 'Pictures at an Exhibition'
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Thanks to modern technology, complex visual images are as close as a cell phone, but they're still no match for the images conjured up by the imagination in pieces like Modest Moussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition" to be performed by the Purdue Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, March 4.
The free concert, set for 2:30 p.m. in the Long Center , 111 N. Sixth St ., Lafayette, not only features Moussorgsky's work in its entirety but also a performance by the Purdue Symphonic Band.
Under the direction of Jay S. Gephart, the Symphonic Band will perform John Zdechlik's spirited "Celebrations" and a host of other works that conjure up their own visions including "The Screamer" by Fred Jewell and "March Slav, Op. 31" by Tchaikovsky.
Moussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition," is musical visit to an 19 th century art gallery filled with watercolor paintings by Victor Hartman, a friend of the composer. Although it was originally written for piano, the piece owes a lot of its popularity to the orchestral arrangement of it by Maurice Ravel that will be presented by the Purdue Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Andrew King. The piece was also made famous by the British progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer in their 1971 album of the same name, " Pictures At An Exhibition."
Quite literally, Moussorgsky's piece provides a musical description of the experience of walking through an exhibit of Hartman's paintings. The recurrence of the "Promenade" theme, with its shifting time signatures, depicts the dawdling, irregular way a visitor would move through an art exhibition.
Nearly a dozen of Hartman's art works inspire short individual movements with interesting titles such as "The Gnome," "The Great Gate of Kiev" and "Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells." Each movement attempts to conjure up the mood invoked by one of Hartman's art works, often attempting to paint the picture in music.
Many of the original pictures no longer exist so Mussorgsky's music is the only way to bring them to life. "The Gnome," for instance, depicts Hartman's design for a nutcracker in the shape of a gnome. Although the painting has been lost, the image projected through Mussorgsky's music is that of a grotesque looking gnome.
The playful movement titled "Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells" was inspired by designs Hartman drew for a ballet called "Trilby." The costumes were for children dressed as canaries as well as un-hatched chicks. The picture displayed with this story shows one of Hartman's drawings.
"The Great Gate of Kiev," perhaps the best known of all the movements, starts with big, long chords, describing the grandness of Hartman's design for a new city gate in Kiev that was never realized. Many feel the movement depicts people thronging through the gates. The sound of bells at its conclusion creates a victorious mood.
Moussorgsky composed "Pictures at an Exhibition" in 1874 as a tribute to his artist friend who had died a year earlier. One of the Russian composers known as "The Five," Moussorgsky strove to achieve a uniquely Russian musical identity, often in deliberate defiance of the established conventions of Western music . Many of his major works, including "Pictures At An Exhibition," were inspired by Russian history, Russian folklore, and other nationalist themes.
The Purdue Symphony Orchestra and Purdue Symphonic Band will next perform on April 22 to close out their 2006-07 season.
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