February 26, 2007

Purdue Orchestra to present 'Pictures at an Exhibition'

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue Symphony Orchestra will present Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" at 2:30 p.m. Sunday (March 4) at the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St., in Lafayette.

The free concert will feature Mussorgsky's work along with a performance by the Purdue Symphonic Band.

Under the direction of Jay S. Gephart, the Symphonic Band will perform John Zdechlik's "Celebrations" and other works, including "The Screamer" by Fred Jewell and "March Slav, Op. 31" by Tchaikovsky.

Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" is a musical visit to a 19th century art gallery filled with watercolor paintings by Victor Hartman, a friend of the composer. Originally written for piano, the Purdue Symphony Orchestra will present an orchestral arrangement by Maurice Ravel under the direction of Andrew King. The piece also was made famous by the British progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the group's 1971 album of the same name, "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Mussorgsky'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 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.

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 "Trilbi." The costumes were for children dressed as canaries as well as unhatched chicks.

"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.

Mussorgsky composed "Pictures at an Exhibition" in 1874 as a tribute to his artist friend who died a year earlier. One of the Russian composers known as "The Five," Mussorgsky 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 the 2006-07 season. For information on these and other Purdue Bands and Orchestra ensembles and upcoming concerts, call (765) 496-6785 or visit https://www.purdue.edu/bands

Writer: Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, (765) 496-6785, kcmatter@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

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