pictures of an exhibition

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Cover of the first edition (1886)

The piano cycle "Pictures at an Exhibition" - memories of Viktor Hartmann ( Russian "Картинки с выставки" - Воспоминание о Викторе Гартмане transcribed kartinki s wystawki - wospominanije o Wiktore Gartmane ) is a composition by Modest Mussorgsky in 1874, commonly referred to as a prime example of program music is seen. The individual sentences describe paintings and drawings by his friend Viktor Hartmann , who died the year before , which Mussorgsky had seen at a memorial exhibition. The work was created at the suggestion of a mutual friend, the art critic Vladimir Stasov . He was also involved in the naming of the pieces and the cycle was dedicated to him.

The richness of the timbres prompted other composers to work on the work for orchestras and other instrumental groups as well. The most famous arrangement is that of Maurice Ravel .


The following table shows ten images.

The original title is noted in the left column, next to it is the German title or the direct translation. In the right column there are alternative names for the sentences.

Sentence I-III
Sentence IV – VI
Theorem VII-X
Original title German translation Alternative title (annotations)
I. Gnomus The gnome
(Promenade) (there is no title in the original)
II. Il vecchio castello The old castle
(Promenade) (there is no title in the original)
III. Tuileries
(Dispute d'enfants après jeux)
The Tuileries
(children at play fighting)
IV. Bydło The ox cart
(Promenade) (there is no title in the original)
V. Балет невылупившихся
Ballet of the unhatched
Ballet of the cakes
in their eggshells
VI. "Samuel" Goldenberg
and "Schmuÿle"
"Samuel" Goldenberg
and "Schmuyle"
VII. Limoges. Le marché
(La grande nouvelle)
Limoges. The marketplace
(the big news)
Limoges market square
VIII. Catacombae
(Sepulcrum romanum)
The Catacombs
(Roman Crypt)
Cum mortuis in lingua mortua With the dead in a dead tongue (a version of the promenade)
IX. Избушка на курьих ножках
The hut on chicken feet
The hut of the Baba-Yaga
X. Богатырские ворота
(В стольном городе во Киеве)
The Hero's Gate
(in the old capital Kiev)
The great gate of Kiev

Explanation of content

The work gives the impression of a tour of an exhibition of Hartmann's works.

  • At the beginning there is the promenade , which returns slightly changed between the following pieces. Mussorgsky himself spoke of the promenade depicting himself walking around among the exhibits to look at them. The promenade appears several times in situation-adapted variants as a transition between the pieces.
  • Gnomus is the first picture: a dwarf hopping awkwardly on misshapen legs. The music depicts different forms of movement of the gnome: wildly wriggling gestures, interrupted by rigid numbness, insane jumps, bizarre limping and stumbling, gloomy threatening creeping, which is interrupted by eruptive shaking attacks. A fortissimo outburst combines the "creeping motif" with a lamento-like chromatic downward movement, so that the impression of a threatening as well as pain-distorted torment arises. Against the background of eerily gruesome trills and runs in the bass region, the limping stumbling of the unhappily deformed one increases to harshly dissonating screams, before - after a general pause acting as a moment of shock- the gnome disappears with a bizarre zigzag run. Incidentally, this run with its two rules: con tutta forza (with all your might) and velocissimo (extremely familiar) is a particularly difficult technical challenge.
  • Il vecchio castello - 'The old castle' was decorated by Stassow with the addition: "In front of which is a singing troubadour ". It is a quiet romance of a wistful character ( Andantino molto cantabile e con dolore ). The accompaniment as well as the prelude and the interludes between the stanzas are reminiscent of the play of a medieval hurdy-gurdy with its drone bass.
  • Tuileries reproduce the afternoon picture of the famous park in Paris : raging children who areinsistently but in vain admonishedby their governesses . The unctuous words of the teachers are interrupted by happy interjections from the children who cannot be tamed.
  • Bydło means horned cattle or cattle in Polish; here the expression stands for a heavy cart pulled by oxen. It is heavy and broad; the piece acoustically depicts the monotonously rolling wheels and the dull trudging steps of the draft oxen. Although fortissimo is to be played from the beginning , there is a further increase in the middle of the piece through chordal expansion of the movement and the rule con tutta forza (with all Force). Towards the end the music becomes quieter and quieter ( perdendosi ): the strange vehicle disappears in the distance.
  • Ballet of the unhatched chicks: Hartmann's picture shows a costume design for the performance of a ballet called Trilby. With lots of suggestions and trills, the music paints the picture of feather-light, lively chicks that happily trudge around, peck and beep.
  • "Samuel" Goldenberg and "Schmuÿle" are two Jews: the one rich and sedate, the other poor and demolished. The motif for "Samuel" Goldenberg is accordingly broad and weighty. Goldenberg “speaks” with a booming bass, the excessive second in the melody line is reminiscent of the Freygian scale often used in Jewish music . “Schmuyle” is completely different: It is characterized by annoying whining and nagging. The repetitions in the right hand are technically extremely demanding. At the end of the piece, both motifs are brought together: the left hand plays Goldenberg, the right Schmuyle. The dispute between the two intensifies and ends abruptly with the garish dissonance of an excessive triad . The lamenting chromatic final passage (con dolore) suggests the image of the obviously inferior Schmuyle, who slips away like a doused poodle, while the “winner” sends a few abrupt threatening gestures after him.
  • Limoges is a reflection of everyday market activity: Lively confusion, screaming sellers, arguing market women. At the end, the tempo of the staccato movement thatruns through the entire piece acceleratesto a wild vortex thatscrewsits way up with accelerando and then suddenly ( attacca ) crashes into the depths of the catacombs described in the next picture.
  • Catacombae and Cum mortuis in lingua mortua represent Hartmann's walk through the Paris catacombs . The piece on this reflects a gloomy mood that can easily arise in view of the piled up bones and skulls in the catacombs of Paris. Long-reverberant chords sound partly with brutally shocking force in fortissimo, partly they echo softly and eerily from the mysterious depths of the vaults.
Before the part Con mortuis in lingua mortua, there is the following note in the autograph by Mussorgsky: “The Latin text is: with the dead in a dead language. What does the Latin text mean? - The creative spirit of the late Hartmann leads me to the skulls and calls on them; the skulls light up gently. ”In the music, Mussorgsky himself seems to invoke the skulls: against the background of a shimmering tremolo in the treble, a minor variant of the promenade theme sounds alternately in the middle position (invocation) and in the dark bass region (answer from the realm of the dead). With seemingly mystical chords, the piece fades away, immersed in the ubiquitous tremolo that is left alone in the end and whose ever quieter fading - if it is to happen without holes and dynamic outliers - is also one of the pianistic problems with which the entire cycle is richly peppered is.
  • The hut on chicken feet: Baba-Jaga is a witch in Russian folk tales. She lives in a dark forest, where she ambushes unsuspecting passers-by, lures them into her hut and eats them up. Your house stands on chicken feet so that the entrance can turn to the arriving people, no matter which direction they come from. She herself does not ride a broom, but on a mortar , which she drives with the pestle . Its powerful stamping determines the character of the wild witch ride, which Mussorgsky describes in the corner parts of this piece, while the eerie atmosphere of the forest thicket is evoked in the middle part. Mussorgsky uses the “Devil's Interval” tritone for the witch's eerie teasing calls .
Architectural design by Viktor Hartmann for a Kiev city gate with a bell tower and a small church inside from 1869, which after his death was the inspiration for Modest Mussorgsky's 10th movement "The Heroes' Gate (in the old capital Kiev)" of the piano cycle Pictures from an exhibition from 1874 was.
  • The large gate of Kiev refers to Hartmann's sketch for a city gate with a bell tower and a small church inside. Mussorgsky describes the majestic size of the gate with a full-grip theme that is “weighty” with bass suggestions. When this theme is repeated, octave scale figures are added, which allude to the rich ornamentation. The sacred aspect is indicated by two inserted episodes in the four-part choral setting. Bell-like chords in the bass rock through the addition of successively accelerated middle and upper parts to a rich peal in which the promenade theme finally appears almost apothetically. After a further increase, the opening theme appears again in a form that exhausts the maximum sonority of the piano, even tries to explode, and includes the previous “ringing of the bell”. After a renewed increase, which lets the ringing swell to a noisy roar, the piece ends with a monumental apotheosis of the main theme and huge final chords.

The relationship to the original images

The main reason for Mussorgsky's composition was the memorial exhibition for Viktor Hartmann, which took place in February and March 1874 at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. It is difficult to clarify, not least in view of the difficult source situation for Viktor Hartmann's pictures, many of which have been lost, whether there actually ever existed original images for all of the movements or whether some of the images perhaps sprang directly from Mussorgsky's imagination. There is no template for the connecting promenade ; Here Mussorgsky simply characterizes strolling through the exhibition in changing moods, in which the previous motif has an effect or the emerging one casts its shadow in advance.

Corresponding pictures by Hartmann have not been preserved for all of the sentences in “Pictures at an Exhibition”. Only three of the pictures that Mussorgsky set to music can be documented in the exhibition of 1874: the “Ballet of the unhatched chicks” (a costume design for the ballet Trilbi by the composer Julius Gerber and the choreographer Marius Petipa ), “The Hut on Chicken Feet (Baba-Jaga ) ” (A design drawing for a bronze clock) and “ The Great Gate of Kiev ” (an architectural design not carried out). However, since the exhibition was expanded to include loans even after it began, it is no longer possible to determine the exact size of the exhibition afterwards.

Two separate pencil drawings by two Jews that were in Mussorgski's private possession and have been lost, but of which one variant has been preserved as a watercolor , can be identified as a template for “'Samuel' Goldenberg and 'Schmuÿle'” . There is also a picture of Hartmann's catacombs in Paris . Whether this actually served as a template for the sentence Catacombae (sepulc [h] rum romanum) remains speculative. A Roman tomb, as indicated in the title, is not shown in Hartmann's picture.


Recording of the original manuscript

In 2014 the Russian pianist Andrej Hoteev released a new CD recording of “Pictures at an Exhibition” based on original manuscripts from the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, which, according to his research, contains numerous significant deviations from other music editions. In the CD booklet, the most important deviations are clearly documented using illustrations from the manuscripts. The press describes the impression of the expressive power, the dynamism, the richness of colors and the intensity of the original.

Recording of the composer's manuscript version

In 2010 the German pianist Lars David Kellner published the piece “Gnomus” in the manuscript version of the composer on his Mussorgsky CD (first recording). The complete “Pictures at an Exhibition” was premiered in 2011 by Kellner in their original version. The differences between the first version and the final version concern “Gnomus” as well as “The Baba-Yaga Hut” and “The Great Gate of Kiev”.


It is often noted that this piano cycle calls for an orchestral version, and the versions are correspondingly diverse. As a result, other edits were not lacking.

For orchestra

  • Already Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov , also a member of the " Group of Five " instrumented two movements of the work. This fact repeatedly gave rise to speculation as to the extent to which Mussorgsky himself might have thought about an orchestral version. But there is not even any evidence that Rimsky-Korsakov told Mussorgsky.
  • In 1891, the Rimsky-Korsakov student Mikhail Tuschmalow published the earliest instrumentation, but only contains a selection of 7 images. Recording by the Munich Philharmonic under Marc Andreae (BASF)
  • 1915 Henry Wood , all pictures, but only the first "Promenade"
  • In 1922 Maurice Ravel arranged the work for orchestra on behalf of Sergei Kussewizki , conductor of the Paris “Concerts Symphoniques”. He left out the fifth promenade. With this most famous version, the work received worldwide attention.


  • 1930 Giuseppe Becce , piano trio
  • 1940 Vladimir Horowitz , for piano
  • 1954 Rudolf Würthner , for accordion
  • 1970 Heinz Wallisch , arrangement for two guitars
  • 1970 Arthur Willis , organ
  • In 1971 the progressive rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer released a modern version of Mussorgsky's composition under the title Pictures At An Exhibition .
  • 1975 Isao Tomita , synthesizer
  • 1975 star combo Meißen , based on the version by Emerson, Lake and Palmer
  • In 1975, Philipp Corner and KP Brehmer published another adaptation, which they referred to as Pictures of Pictures , which is based on both Mussorgsky and Wassily Kandinsky . Kandinsky created a stage performance that programmatically accompanies Mussorgsky's piece of music, but the motifs are purely abstract and without reference to Viktor Hartmann's pictures. It is the translation back into a stage composition. Based on this, KP Brehmer embarked on a type of visual implementation in 1975 with Pictures of Pictures from Pictures . He visualized the piano work with the help of a sonograph in 10 images. The pianist Philipp Corner turned these pictures into music (1975–79) and thus came up with his work title Pictures of Pictures from Pictures of Pictures . Like Brehmer's pictures, his 10 pieces have the same headings as the original picture cycles.
  • 1977 Oskar Gottlieb Blarr , organ
  • 1977 Günther Fischer used the motif “The old castle” for the music for the DEFA film “ Die Flucht ” by Roland Gräf .
  • 1978 Elgar Howarth , The Philip Jones Brass Ensemble (argo / DECCA)
  • In 1981 the Japanese guitarist Kazuhito Yamashita wrote a transcription for solo guitar. Andrés Segovia worked on The Old Castle before .
  • Reginald Hache , transcription for two pianos in a further arrangement by Anthony & Joseph Paratore
  • 1983 Madleine Gremper-Jenny and Walter Feybli, arrangement for two guitars
  • 1981/1984 Henk de Vlieger , 14 percussion, celesta, harp and piano
  • 1981–1989 Parts of “Pictures at an Exhibition”, especially the play “Tuileries”, are incorporated into the soundtrack of the animated series “ The Smurfs ”.
  • 1988 Jean Guillou , organ
  • 1990 Viktor Burkhard for harmony music, performed for the first time by the Brunnen Musikgesellschaft
  • In 1990 the German musician and composer Hans-Karsten Raecke created an arrangement for choir , choir soloists, 2 synthesizers and percussion , with his own texts. The world premiere of individual pieces took place in Darmstadt in 1987 . In 1992 he created another arrangement for choir, choir soloists, 2 synthesizers, wind ensemble and percussion ensemble. In 2004 there was a staged performance of his third arrangement for choir, soloists and 2 master keyboards (world premiere: October 1st, 2004 Alte Feuerwache Mannheim ).
  • John Boyd , the orchestra of wooden wind
  • 1992 Gert Van Keulen , the orchestra of wooden wind
  • 1992 Lutz Köhler , hr-brass - the brass section of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. The CD (Capriccio / Delta Music GmbH) includes "Pictures at an Exhibition" (arr. 1979 by E. Howarth for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble [see above], with extensive percussion) and 12 movements from " Romeo and Juliet " by Sergej Prokofieff .
  • 1993 Hans Wilhelm Plate , a version for 44 pianists on 44 grand pianos and a prepared piano.
  • 1995 Elmar Rothe , for 3 guitars
  • (um) 1996 James Crabb and Geir Draugsvoll, for 2 accordions
  • 1996 German Marimba Duo, for 2 marimbas
  • In 1997 the German progressive metal band Mekong Delta released an adaptation entitled Pictures at an Exhibition . This is very much based on the original; in addition to the edited version, the album also contains a second version in which the orchestrated version is underlaid.
  • 1999 Joachim Linckelmann , the quintet of wooden wind
  • 2002 Olaf Tzschoppe , organ and drums
  • In 2005 the company Animusic published a 3D animated adaptation on their DVD Animusic 2. The adaptation is completely synthetic, is based on the version by Emerson, Lake & Palmer and comprises the parts Promenade, The Baba's hut with a duration of around six minutes Yaga and The Great Gate of Kiev (partly shortened). The processing was created as a commissioned work for Hewlett Packard.
  • 2005 Bertrand Hainaut, clarinet ensemble
  • In 2006 the Christof Thewes Undertone Project released a version on CD which, according to its own statement, should be "not a swing meets classical project ... but a modern contemporary arrangement between funk, rock, free jazz, new music and many spontaneous surprises". In addition to the successful musical interpretation, what is special here is probably the new images created by the Saarbrücken artist Thomas Altpeter , which are shown in the CD booklet.
  • 2006 Matthias Spillmann , Mats-Up, Same Pictures - New Exhibition, arrangement for jazz septet
  • 2007 Adam Berces , for synthesizer
  • 2007 Christian M. Fischer , The pictures of a new exhibition, electroacoustic composition (8 channels). After Mussorgski's composition was influenced or stimulated by images, Fischer's electroacoustic approach consists in creating acoustic images in three-dimensional sound space based on the structures of the previous versions (Mussorgski, Ravel, Tomita, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Mekong Delta) .
  • 2007 Glass Duo for glass harp
  • 2007 Gideon Bodden for Carillon
  • In 2008 the techno musicians Moritz von Oswald and Carl Craig published the third part of the ReComposed series on the traditional label Deutsche Grammophon , in which contemporary artists reinterpret works of classical music. Von Oswald and Craig chose Pictures at an Exhibition and Maurice Ravel's orchestral piece Boléro for their album .
  • 2008 Pond electronic processing
  • 2009 Maybebop , a cappella version of the Promenade with German text as Modern Art on the album Endlich Authentisch .
  • 2011 Myroslaw Skoryk for string quartet, commissioned work for the Szymanowski Quartet
  • 2011 Yaron Gottfried for jazz trio and orchestra
  • 2013 for piano quartet , arranged by the Fauré Quartet and Grigory Gruzman
  • 2013 Hans-Jürgen Von der Wöste arranged the work based on Maurice Ravel for brass, organ and percussion in two versions. Instrumentation A: 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, organ and percussion. Instrumentation B: 4 trumpets, 2 horns, 3 trombones, tuba, organ and percussion. Edition Von der Wöste Verlag.
  • 2015 Holger Elias, for organ

Recordings of the orchestral versions (selection)

  • Orchestra version by Maurice Ravel (1922): Philadelphia Orchestra, conductor: Riccardo Muti, Philips, 1992
  • Orchestra version by Leopold Stokowski (1939): The Cleveland Orchestra, conductor: Oliver Knussen, Deutsche Grammophon, 2004
  • Orchestra version by Sergei Gorchakov (1955): London Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor: Kurt Masur, Warner Classics, 1991
  • Orchestral versions by Leo Funtek & Sergej Gorchakov (1922/1955): Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conductor: Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Apex, 1996
  • Orchestra version by Vladimir Ashkenazy (1982): Philharmonia Orchestra, conductor: Vladimir Ashkenazy, Decca, 1983

Instrumentation for the orchestral version by Maurice Ravel

flutes (2nd + 3rd also piccolo ), 3  oboes (3rd also English horn ), 2  clarinets (both: B + A), 1  bass clarinet (B + A), 2  bassoons , 1  contrabassoon , 1  alto saxophone (E-flat)

horns (F), 3  trumpets (C), 3  trombones , 1  tuba

Timpani , percussion ( triangle , snare drum , whip , ratchet , cymbal , bass drum , tam-tam ), glockenspiel , xylophone , tubular bell or church bell ( Eb only)





  • Christoph Flamm: Modest Mussorgski. Pictures at an exhibition (Bärenreiter factory introductions). Bärenreiter, Kassel 2016, ISBN 9783761822210 .
  • Michael Russ: Musorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (Cambridge Music Handbooks). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York 1992, ISBN 0-521-38607-1 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).

Web links

Commons : Pictures at an Exhibition  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Remy Franck: Mussorgsky based on the original manuscripts . Pizzikato, September 24, 2014
  2. Edel ( Memento from December 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Dorothea Bossert: This CD has consequences . SWR2, September 16, 2014
  4. ^ Gregor Willmes: Urtext-Bilder ( Memento from December 9, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), FonoForum. November 2014
  5. SERitter: [1] Fanfare Magazine, 11-2011
  6. Musikwinter-Klassik: The Fauré Quartet as "Artists in Residence" in Gschwend ,, January 22, 2013, accessed on May 9, 2018
  7. Concert announcement Laeiszhalle Hamburg , December 9, 2013, accessed on May 9, 2018