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.
• 1284 ~ The Pied Piper exacted his revenge upon the German town of Hamelin this day. The townspeople had promised to pay the piper a large fee if he could rid their town the nasty rats running all over the place. He had played his trusty pipe and the rats had followed him out of town and into the River Weser. But once the rodents were eliminated, the local folks decided not to pay after all. The piper was not pleased and repaid the townspeople by playing his pipe for the children of Hamelin, just like he had done for the rats. And just like the rats, the children followed him out of town.
• 1582 ~ Johannes Schultz, Composer
• 1657 ~ Tobias Michael, Composer, died at the age of 65
• 1661 ~ Lazaro Valvasensi, Composer, died at the age of 76
• 1747 ~ Leopold Jan Antonin Kozeluh, Composer
• 1778 ~ Angelo Antonio Caroli, Composer, died at the age of 77
• 1798 ~ Eugene Godecharle, Composer, died at the age of 56
• 1823 ~ Frederick Bowen Jewson, Composer
• 1824 ~ Moritz Furstenau, Composer
• 1836 ~ Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, author and composer of the Marseillaise, died
• 1870 ~ Wagner’s opera “Valkyrie” premiered in Munich
• 1933 ~ Claudio Abbado, Italian conductor
More information about Abbado
• 1933 ~ The Kraft Music Hall debuted. It turned out to be one of radio’s longest-running hits. The first program presented Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. SingerAl Jolson became the host of the show shortly thereafter. Several years later, crooner Bing Crosby was named the host. The Kraft Music Hall continued on NBC radio until 1949 and then on TV for many more years; the first year as Milton Berle Starring in the Kraft Music Hall, then Kraft Music Hall Presents: The Dave King Show followed by Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall for four seasons. From 1967 on, The Kraft Music Hall featured a different host.
• 1934 ~ Dave Grusin, Composer of film scores
• 1934 ~ Luis Felipe Pires, Composer
• 1940 ~ Billy Davis, Jr., Singer with The 5th Dimension
• 1942 ~ Larry Taylor, Musician, bass with Canned Heat
• 1943 ~ John Allen Strang, Composer
• 1943 ~ Georgie Fame (Clive Powell), Singer
• 1945 ~ Barry Schrader, Composer
• 1945 ~ Erno Rapee, Composer, died at the age of 54
• 1945 ~ Nikolay Nikolayevich Tcherepnin, Composer, died at the age of 72
• 1953 ~ Ralph Ezell, American singer
• 1954 ~ Robert Davi, American opera singer/actor
• 1956 ~ Clifford Brown, American jazz trumpeter, died at the age of 25
• 1964 ~ A Hard Day’s Night was released by United Artists Records. The album featured all original material by The Beatles and became the top album in the country by July 25, 1964.
• 1965 ~ Mr. Tambourine Man, by The Byrds, reached the number one spot on the pop music charts. The song was considered by many to be the first folk-rock hit. The tune was written by Bob Dylan, as were two other hits for the group: All I Really Wantto Do and My Back Pages. The group of James Roger McGinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Mike Clarke charted seven hits. The Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
• 1966 ~ “Time for Singing” closed at Broadway Theater New York City after 41 performances
• 1971 ~ Inia Te Wiata, opera singer, died
• 1971 ~ Juan Manen, Composer, died at the age of 88
• 1971 ~ “Man of La Mancha” closed at ANTA Washington Square Theater New York City after 2329 performances
• 1972 ~ David Lichine (Lichtenstein), Russian/American choreographer, died at the age of 61
• 1973 ~ Arnold Richardson, Composer, died at the age of 59
• 1973 ~ London production of “Grease” premiered
• 1977 ~ Lou Reizner, Rock vocalist/producer, died at the age of 43
• 1977 ~ Elvis Presley sang the last performance of his career, in Indianapolis. He died two months later.
• 1981 ~ Peter Kreuder, German composer, died
• 1982 ~ André Tchaikowsy, Pianist and composer, died
• 1983 ~ Walter O’Keefe, Songwriter and TV host, died at the age of 82
• 1983 ~ “Show Boat” closed at Uris Theater New York City after 73 performances
• 1984 ~ Barbra Streisand recorded Here We Are at Last
• 1991 ~ Carmine Coppola, Composer and conductor (Godfather II), died at the age of 80
• 1994 ~ Thomas Henry Wait Armstrong, Organist, died at the age of 96
• 2001 ~ French soprano Gina Cigna, famed for singing Puccini’s “Turandot”, died at the age of 101. Born in Paris in 1900, Cigna made her stage debut at Milan’s La Scala opera house at age 27 under the name Ginette Sens. Her breakthrough came two years later when she performed in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at La Scala under her own name. Arturo Toscanini, the conductor, was particularly fond of Cigna’s expressive voice, which received widespread acclaim. An auto accident ended Cigna’s performing career in 1947. Until 1965, she coached opera singers in Milan, Siena and Canada.