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Commentary on "Pictures at an Exhibition"-Great Works Response
In 1873, Modest Mussorgsky's artist friend, Victor Hartmann, passed away. Mussorgsky was disappointed that Hartmann was never able to see his concept paintings of architecture come to life. Without a legacy in permanent stone, Hartmann was sure to be forgotten. To commemorate his friend, Mussorgsky wrote a suite of piano pieces inspired by several of Hartmann's works. Much of the original artwork has been lost, but "Pictures at an Exhibition" has endured to provide legacy for and interest in both artists.

Personally, I always appreciate when a composer introduces the main theme of a song right away. It gives me a concrete line to listen for and compare throughout the piece. Mussorgsky does just that. The first 13 notes played are the original statement of a simple, yet elegant theme. This theme is heard again countless times throughout. With the exception of two of the suites, the theme is used to signify the spectator traveling from one area of the exhibition to another.

In most cases, the promenade supplies a contrast to the movements before and after. The pictures presented at an exhibition affect the visitor, but do not dictate his existence. Accordingly, the promenade is often affected by the mood of the movement, but rarely continues the theme of the movement. Much as a man walking through a museum, the pace of the promenade changes in different rooms. A perfect example of this is the third promenade, between the painting of the castle and that of the gardens. As he leaves the castle, he walks tall and proud, but when he turns the corner and sees the beautiful garden, he pauses and asks what this is.

There's more to read. Read the extended entry.

uploaded Wed March 03 2004 at 9:22 AM
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