Pictures at an Exhibition is a suite of ten pieces (plus a recurring, varied Promenade) composed for the piano by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874.
The suite is Mussorgsky’s most famous piano composition and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists. It has become further known through various orchestrations and arrangements produced by other musicians and composers, with Maurice Ravel’s arrangement being by far the most recorded and performed.
You can download the sheet music at IMSP or I have a copy of the book, as well as simplified sheet music.
The work opens with a brilliant touch – a “promenade” theme (above) that reemerges throughout as a transition amid the changing moods of the various pictures.
The ten pictures Mussorgsky depicts are:
- a gnome-shaped nutcracker;
- a troubadour plaintively singing outside an ancient castle;
- children vigorously playing and quarreling in a park;
- a lumbering wooden Polish ox-cart;
- a ballet of peeping chicks as they hatch from their shells;
- an argument between two Warsaw Jews, one haughty and vain, the other poor and garrulous;
- shrill women and vendors in a crowded marketplace;
- the eerie, echoing gloom of catacombs beneath Paris;
- the hut of a grotesque bone-chomping witch of Russian folklore named Baba Yaga;
- and a design for an entrance gate to Kiev.
The whole piece for piano. See if you can tell which pictures are which.
Orchestrated, with the full score:
Just the Baba Yaga section:
The Emerson, Lake and Palmer version: