Pictures at an Exhibition: Wikis


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Mussorgsky in 1874

Pictures at an Exhibition (Russian: Картинки с выставки – Воспоминание о Викторе Гартмане, Kartinki s vystavki – Vospominaniye o Viktore Gartmane, "Pictures from an Exhibition – A Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann") is a famous suite in ten movements composed for piano by Modest Mussorgsky in 1874.

The suite is Mussorgsky's most famous piano composition, and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists. It has also become known through various orchestrations and arrangements produced by other musicians and composers (see: Arrangements and Interpretations, below, for further discussion), with Ravel's arrangement being the most recorded and performed.


Composition history

Viktor Hartmann (1834–1873)

It was probably in 1870 that Mussorgsky met artist and architect Viktor Hartmann. Both men were devoted to the cause of an intrinsically Russian art and quickly became friends. Their meeting was likely arranged by the influential critic Vladimir Stasov who followed both of their careers with interest.

Hartmann died from an aneurysm in 1873. The sudden loss of the artist, aged only 39, shook Mussorgsky along with others in Russia's art world. Stasov helped organize an exhibition of over 400 Hartmann works in the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg in February and March 1874. Mussorgsky lent works from his personal collection to the exhibit and viewed the show in person. Fired by the experience, he composed Pictures at an Exhibition in six weeks. The music depicts an imaginary tour of an art collection. Titles of individual movements allude to works by Hartmann; Mussorgsky used Hartmann as a working title during the work's composition. He described the experience to Stasov in June 1874: "Hartmann is seething as Boris was. Sounds and ideas float in the air and my scribbling can hardly keep pace with them."[1]

Mussorgsky, himself a sufferer of delirium tremens and complications from alcoholism, would die seven years later at the age of forty-two.[2]

Mussorgsky based his musical material on drawings and watercolours by Hartmann produced mostly during the artist's travels abroad. Locales include Poland, France and Italy; the final movement depicts an architectural design for the capital city of Ukraine. Today most of the pictures from the Hartmann exhibit are lost, making it impossible to be sure in many cases which Hartmann works Mussorgsky had in mind. Musicologist Alfred Frankenstein, in a 1939 article for The Musical Quarterly, claimed to have identified seven pictures by catalogue number. Two Jews: Rich, and Poor (Frankenstein suggested two separate portraits, still extant, as the basis for Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuyle), Gnomus, Tuileries (now lost), Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks (a ballet costume design), Catacombae, The Hut on Hen's Legs (Baba Yaga), and The Bogatyr Gates.

Mussorgsky links the suite's movements in a way that depicts the viewer's own progress through the exhibition. Two "Promenade" movements stand as portals to the suite's main sections. Their regular pace and irregular meter depicts the act of walking. Three untitled interludes present shorter statements of this theme, varying the mood, colour and key in each to suggest reflection on a work just seen or anticipation of a new work glimpsed. Mussorgsky, not generally known for cutting a svelte figure, wrote to Stasov: "My physiognomy can be seen in the interludes." A turn is taken in the work at the "Catacombae" when the Promenade theme stops functioning as merely a linking device and becomes, in "Cum mortuis", an integral element of the movement itself. The theme reaches its apotheosis in the suite's finale, The Bogatyr Gates.

Publication history

The cover of the first edition of Pictures at an Exhibition

As with most of Mussorgsky's works, Pictures at an Exhibition has a complicated publication history. Although composed very rapidly (during June 2-22, 1874), the work did not appear in print until 1886 (five years after the composer's death), when an edition by the composer's great friend Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was published. This publication, moreover, was not a completely accurate representation of Mussorgsky's score, but presented an edited and revised text that had been reworked to a certain amount, as well as containing a substantial number of errors and misreadings.

Only in 1931, more than half a century after the work's composition, was Pictures at an Exhibition published in a scholarly edition in agreement with the composer's manuscript. In 1940, the Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola published an important critical edition of Mussorgsky's work with extensive commentary. Mussorgsky's hand-written manuscript was published in facsimile in 1975.

Gallery of Hartmann's pictures

The surviving works by Hartmann that can be shown with any certainty to have been used by Mussorgsky in assembling his suite, along with their titles[3], are as follows:

Note: Mussorgsky owned the two pictures that together inspired No. 6, the Two Jews. The title of No. 6b is «Сандомирский [еврей]» (Russian: Sandomirskiy [yevrey], Sandomir Jew). The bracketed word yevrey (derived from the word Hebrew) is the sanitized form of the original word, very likely жид (zhid or yid). Mussorgsky, like many Russian intellectuals of his day, habitually used antisemitic epithets in his correspondence.[4]

Movements of the suite

Vladimir Stasov's program, identified below,[5] and the six known extant pictures suggest that the ten pieces comprising the suite correspond to eleven pictures by Hartmann, with Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuÿle accounting for two. The five Promenade movements, consisting of an introduction and four links, are not numbered among the ten pictures. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Promenade movements are untitled in the composer's manuscript.

The enduring popularity of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition lies in the satisfaction it offers both at first hearing and in repeated visits. The variety of invention and distinctive character of each movement appeal at once. Visual motives find vivid aural form: clocks, bells, chants, feathers, flames, climb and descent. The piece rewards additional hearings with new relationships constantly to be discovered. The first two movements of the suite--one grand, one grotesque--find mirrored counterparts, and apotheoses, at the end. The suite traces a journey that begins at an art exhibit, but the line between observer and observed vanishes at the Catacombs when the journey takes on a different character. For all the variety individual movements display in musical invention, each springs from a kernel in the opening melody. The Promenade theme provides distinctive "cells" of two and three notes that generate themes and accompaniment figures throughout the piece.

The recording accompanying this explanation is by the Skidmore College Orchestra and provided courtesy of Musopen.




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Key: B-flat major

Meter: originally 11/4. Published editions alternate 5/4 and 6/4.

Tempo: Allegro giusto, nel modo russico; senza allegrezza, ma poco sostenuto

Stasov comment: In this piece Mussorgsky depicts himself "roving through the exhibition, now leisurely, now briskly in order to come close to a picture that had attracted his attention, and at times sadly, thinking of his departed friend."

The melody and rhythm resemble Russian folk songs. The piece has simple, strong rhythms in asymmetrical meter.

The 3rd and 4th bars of the opening movement, "Promenade".

No. 1 "Gnomus"

(Latin, The Gnome):

Key: E-flat minor

Meter: 3/4

Tempo: alternating "Vivo" and "Meno mosso, pesante"

Stasov comment: "A sketch depicting a little gnome, clumsily running with crooked legs."

Hartmann's sketch, now lost, is thought to represent a design for a nutcracker displaying large teeth. The lurching music, in contrasting tempos with frequent stops and starts, suggests the movements of the gnome.

[Untitled] (Interlude, Promenade theme)

Key: A-flat major

Meter: alternating 5/4 and 6/4

Tempo: "Moderato commodo assai e con delicatezza"

A placid statement of the promenade melody depicts the composer walking from one display to the next.

No. 2 "Il vecchio castello"

(Italian, The Old Castle):

Key: G-sharp minor

Meter: 6/8

Tempo: "Andante molto cantabile e con dolore"

Stasov comment: "A medieval castle before which a troubador sings a song."

This movement is thought to be based on a watercolor depiction of an Italian castle. Hartman often placed appropriate human figures in his architectural renderings to suggest scale.[6]

[Untitled] (Interlude, Promenade theme)

Key: B major.

Meter: alternating 5/4 and 6/4

Tempo: "Moderato non tanto, pesamente"

Another brief statement of the promenade melody (8 measures) gives it more extroversion and weight than before.

No. 3 "Tuileries" (Dispute d'enfants après jeux)

(French, Tuileries (Dispute between Children at Play))

Key: B major

Meter: 4/4

Tempo: "Allegretto non troppo, capriccioso"

Stasov comment: "An avenue in the garden of the Tuileries, with a swarm of children and nurses."

Hartmann's picture of the Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre in Paris (France) is now lost. Figures of children quarrelling and playing in the garden were likely added by the artist for scale (see note on No. 2 above).

The movement is cast in through-composed ternary form (ABA).

No. 4 "Bydło"

(Polish, Cattle)

Key: G-sharp minor

Meter: 2/4

Tempo: Sempre moderato, pesante.

Stasov comment: "A Polish cart on enormous wheels, drawn by oxen."

The movement is cast in through-composed ternary form (ABA) with coda. Mussorgsky's original piano version of this movement begins fortissimo (ff), suggesting that the lumbering oxcart's journey begins in the listener's foreground. After reaching a climax (con tutta forza) the dynamic marking is abruptly piano (bar 47), followed by a diminuendo to a final pianissimo (ppp), suggesting the oxcart receding into the distance. Arrangements based on Rimsky-Korsakov's edition, such as Ravel's, begin quietly, build gradually (crescendo) to fortissimo, and then undergo a diminuendo, suggesting the oxcart approaching, passing the listener, and then receding.

[Untitled] (Interlude, Promenade theme)

Key: D minor

Meter: alternating 5/4, 6/4, 7/4

Tempo: "Tranquillo"

A reflective 10-measure presentation of the promenade theme.

No. 5 "Балет невылупившихся птенцов" [Balet nevylupivshikhsya ptentsov]

(Russian, Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks)

Key: F major

Meter: 2/4 time

Tempo: "Scherzino (vivo, leggiero)"

Stasov comment: "Hartmann's design for the décor of a picturesque scene in the ballet Trilby."

Gerald Abraham provides the following details: "Trilby or The Demon of the Heath, a ballet with choreography by Petipa, music by Julius Gerber, and décor by Hartmann... produced in 1870. The fledglings were canary chicks."

The movement is cast in ternary form (ABA) with a literal repeat and terse extension (coda).

No. 6 "Samuel" Goldenberg und "Schmuÿle"

(Yiddish, Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle)

Key: B-flat minor

Meter: 4/4 time

Tempo: "Andante. Grave energico" and "Andantino"

Stasov comment: "Two Jews: Rich and Poor" (Russian: Два еврея: богатый и бедный)

Stasov's explanatory title elucidates the personal names used in Mussorgsky's original manuscript. Published versions display various combinations, such as "Two Polish Jews, Rich and Poor (Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle)". The movement is thought to be based on two separate extant portraits.

The use of augmented second intervals approximate Jewish modes such as the Phrygian dominant scale. The movement is in ternary form (A|B|A+B):

  1. Andante, grave energico (Theme 1 "Samuel Goldenberg")
  2. Andantino (Theme 2 "Schmuÿle")
  3. Andante, grave energico (Themes 1 and 2 in counterpoint)
  4. Coda


Key: B-flat major.

Meter: originally 11/4. Published editions alternate 5/4 and 6/4.

Tempo: Allegro giusto, nel modo russico; poco sostenuto.

A nearly bar-for-bar restatement of the opening promenade. Differences are slight: condensed second half, block chords voiced more fully. Structurally the movement acts as a reboot, giving listeners another hearing of the opening material before these are developed in the second half of the suite. Its appearance at this point in the programmatic narrative suggests that Mussorgsky's exhibition viewer stands in an economic middle ground between the wealth of Goldenberg and the poverty of Schmuÿle.

Many arrangements, including Ravel's orchestral version, omit this movement.

No. 7 "Limoges, le marché" (La grande nouvelle)

(French, The Market at Limoges (The Great News))

Key: E-flat major

Meter: 4/4

Tempo: Allegretto vivo, sempre scherzando

Stasov comment: "French women quarreling violently in the market."

Limoges is a city in central France. Mussorgsky originally provided two paragraphs in French that described a marketplace discussion (the 'great news'), but soon removed them.

The movement is a scherzo in through-composed ternary form (ABA). A scurrying coda leads without a break into the next movement.

No. 8 "Catacombæ" (Sepulcrum romanum) and "Cum mortuis in lingua mortua"

(Latin, The Catacombs (Roman sepulcher)) and (Latin, With the Dead in a Dead Language)
Note: The original published title's Con mortuis is correctly rendered in Latin as Cum mortuis.

Key: B minor

Meter: 3/4 (Sepulcrum) 6/4 (Cum mortuis)

Tempo: "Largo" (Sepulcrum) "Andante non troppo con lamento" (Cum mortuis)

Stasov comment: "Hartmann represented himself examining the Paris catacombs by the light of a lantern."

The movement is in two distinct parts. Its two sections consist of a nearly static Largo consisting of a sequence of block chords, with elegiac lines adding a touch of melancholy, and a more flowing, gloomy "Andante" that introduces the "Promenade" theme into the scene.

The first section's alternating loud and soft chords evoke the grandeur, stillness, and echo of the catacombs. The second section suggests a merging of observer and scene as the observer descends into the catacombs. Mussorgsky's manuscript of The Catacombs displays two pencilled notes, in Russian: "NB – Latin text: With the dead in a dead language" and, along the right margin, "Well may it be in Latin! The creative spirit of the dead Hartmann leads me towards the skulls, invokes them; the skulls begin to glow softly from within."

No. 9 "Избушка на курьих ножках" (Баба-Яга) [Izbushka na kuryikh nozhkakh (Baba-Yagá)]

(Russian, The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba-Yagá))

Key: C minor

Meter: 2/4

Tempo: "Allegro con brio, feroce" and "Andante mosso"

Stasov comment: "Hartmann's drawing depicted a clock in the form of Baba-Yagá's hut on fowl's legs. Mussorgsky added the witch's flight in a mortar."

A scherzo feroce with a slower middle section. Motives in this movement evoke the bells of a large clock and the whirlwind sounds of a chase. Structurally the movement mirrors the grotesque qualities of "Gnomus" on a grand scale. The central andante is one of the more demanding portions of the suite for the pianist, as it features a 16th note triplet tremolo throughout.

The movement is cast in ternary form (ABA):

  1. Allegro con brio, feroce
  2. Andante mosso
  3. Allegro molto (a nearly literal repeat)
  4. Coda

The coda leads without a break to the final movement of the suite.

No. 10 "Богатырские ворота" (В стольном городе во Киеве) [Bogatyrskiye vorota (V stolnom gorode vo Kiyeve)]

(Russian, The Bogatyr Gates (in the Capital in Kiev))

Key: E-flat major

Meter: 4/4

Tempo: "Maestoso, con grandezza" and broadening to the end.

Stasov comment: "Hartmann's sketch was his design for city gates at Kiev in the ancient Russian massive style with a cupola shaped like a slavonic helmet."

Bogatyrs are heroes that appear in Russian epics called bylinas. The title of this movement is commonly translated as "The Great Gate of Kiev" and sometimes as "The Heroes' Gate at Kiev."

Hartmann designed a monumental gate for Tsar Alexander II to commemorate the monarch's narrow escape from an assassination attempt on April 4, 1866. Hartmann regarded his design as the best work he had done. His design won the national competition but plans to build the structure were later cancelled.

The movement features a grand main theme that exalts the opening promenade much as "Baba Yaga" amplified "Gnomus"; also like that movement it evens out the meter of its earlier counterpart. The solemn secondary theme is based on a baptismal hymn from the repertory of Russian Orthodox chant.

The movement is cast as a broad rondo in two main sections: ABAB|CADA. The first half of the movement sets up the expectation of an ABABA pattern. The interruption of this pattern with new music just before its expected conclusion gives the rest of the movement the feeling of a vast extension. This extended leave-taking acts as a coda for the suite as a whole.

  1. A Main Theme ("forte") Tempo: "Maestoso"
  2. B Hymn Theme (piano) (C-sharp minor)
  3. A Main Theme ("forte") Descending and ascending scale figures suggest carillons.
  4. B Hymn Theme (piano) (G-sharp minor)
  5. C Interlude/Transition [under "forte"]. "Promenade" theme recalled. Suggestions of clockwork, bells, ascent.
  6. A Main Theme (fortissimo) Triplet figuration. Tempo: Meno mosso, sempre maestoso.
  7. D Interlude/Transition ("mezzo forte" with crescendo) Triplets.
  8. A Main Theme (fortissimo) Tempo: Grave, Sempre allargando. Rhythm slows to a standstill by the final cadence.

Arrangements and Interpretations

The opening bars of Tushmalov's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition.

The first musician to arrange Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition for orchestra was the little-known Russian composer and conductor Mikhail Tushmalov (1861–1896). However, his version (first performed in 1891 and possibly produced as early as 1886 when he was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov) does not include the entire suite: Only seven of the ten "pictures" are present, leaving out Gnomus, Tuileries, and Bydło, and all the Promenades are omitted except for the last one, which is used in place of the first.

The next orchestration was that undertaken by the British conductor Henry Wood in 1915. He recorded it on a pair of acoustic Columbia 78rpm discs in 1920. However, he withdrew his version when Maurice Ravel's orchestration was published. Wood's arrangement has also been recorded by the London Philharmonic under Nicholas Braithwaite and issued on the Lyrita label. It omits all but the first of the Promenade-based movements and features extensive re-composition elsewhere.

The first person to orchestrate the piece in its entirety was the Slovenian-born conductor and violinist Leo Funtek, who finished his version in 1922 while living and working in Finland.

The version by Maurice Ravel, also produced in 1922, represents a virtuoso effort by a master colourist. The orchestration, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky, has proved the most popular in the concert hall and on record. Ravel omits the Promenade between "Samuel" Goldenberg und "Schmuÿle" and Limoges and applies artistic license to some particulars of dynamics and notation. Koussevitzky's commission gave him sole conducting rights for several years. He published Ravel's score himself and in 1930 made the first recording of it with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Most arrangements made since Ravel's version are indebted to his choice of instrumental colours. The exclusive nature of his commission, though, prompted the release of a number of contemporary versions by other arrangers. An orchestral version by Leonidas Leonardi, a Ravel student, requires even larger forces than Ravel's. Leonardi conducted the premiere of his transcription in Paris in 1924. Another arrangement appeared when Eugene Ormandy took over the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1936 following Leopold Stokowski's decision to resign the conductorship. Ormandy wanted a version of Pictures of his own and commissioned Lucien Cailliet, the Philadelphia Orchestra's 'house arranger' and a member of the woodwind section, to produce one. This version was premiered and recorded by Ormandy in 1937. Walter Goehr, on the other hand, published a version in 1942 for smaller forces than Ravel but curiously dropped Gnomus altogether and made Limoges the first "picture".

The conductor Leopold Stokowski had introduced Ravel's version to Philadelphia audiences in November 1929; ten years later he produced his own very free orchestration (incorporating much re-composition), aiming for what he called a more 'Slavic' orchestral sound instead of Ravel's more 'Gallic' approach. Stokowski revised his version over the years and made three gramophone recordings of it (1939, 1941 and 1965). The score, finally published in 1971, has since been recorded by other conductors, including Matthias Bamert, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Oliver Knussen and José Serebrier.

Although Ravel's version is most often performed and recorded, a number of conductors have made their own changes to the scoring, including Arturo Toscanini, Nicolai Golovanov and Djong Victorin Yu. Conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy has produced his own orchestral arrangement, expressing dissatisfaction with Ravel's interpretive liberties and perpetuation of early printing errors.[7] The conductor Leonard Slatkin has performed 'compendium' versions, in which each Promenade and "picture" is interpreted by a different orchestral arranger.

Many other orchestrations and arrangements of Pictures have been made. Most show debts to Ravel; the original piano composition is, of course, frequently performed and recorded. A version for chamber orchestra exists, made by Taiwanese composer Chao Ching-Wen. Elgar Howarth arranged it for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble in the 1970s. Kazuhito Yamashita wrote an adaptation for solo classical guitar. Excerpts have also been recorded, including a 78 rpm disc of The Old Castle and Catacombs orchestrated by Sir Granville Bantock, and a spectacular version of The Great Gate of Kiev was scored by Douglas Gamley for full symphony orchestra, male voice choir and organ.

The suite has inspired homages in a broad range of musical styles. A version featured in two albums by the British trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer incorporates elements of progressive rock, jazz and folk music (1971/2008). An electronic music adaptation by Isao Tomita was done in 1975. A heavy metal arrangement of the entire suite was released by German band Mekong Delta; another metal band, Armored Saint, utilised the Great Gate of Kiev's main theme as the introduction to the track March of the Saint. In 2002, electronic musician-composer Amon Tobin paraphrased Gnomus for the track Back From Space on his album Out from Out Where. In 2003, guitarist-composer Trevor Rabin released his electric guitar adaptation of Promenade, once intended for the Yes album Big Generator, and later included on his demo album 90124.

Orchestral arrangements

A listing of orchestral arrangements of Pictures at an Exhibition:

  • Mikhail Tushmalov (ca. 1886; three "pictures" and four Promenades omitted: recorded by Marc Andrae and the Munich Philharmonic for BASF)
  • Henry Wood (1915; four Promenades omitted: recorded by Nicholas Braithwaite and the London Philharmonic for Lyrita)
  • Leo Funtek (1922; all Promenades included: recorded by Leif Segerstam and the Finnish Radio Symphony for BIS)
  • Maurice Ravel (1922; the fifth Promenade omitted)
  • Giuseppe Becce (1922; for "salon-orchestra")
  • Leonidas Leonardi (1924)
  • Lucien Cailliet (1937: recorded by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra for RCA and reissued on Biddulph)
  • Leopold Stokowski (1939; third Promenade, Tuileries, fifth Promenade and Limoges omitted. Three recordings conducted by Stokowski: with the Philadelphia Orchestra, All-American Youth Orchestra, and New Philharmonia)
  • Walter Goehr (1942; Gnomus omitted; includes a subsidiary part for piano)
  • Sergei Gorchakov (1954: recorded by Kurt Masur and the London Philharmonic for Teldec)
  • Daniel Walter (1959)
  • Helmut Brandenburg (ca. 1970)
  • Zdeněk Mácal (ca. 1977)
  • Lawrence Leonard (1977; for piano and orchestra; recorded by Tamas Ungar, piano, with Geoffrey Simon and the Philharmonia Orchestra for Cala)
  • Vladimir Ashkenazy (1982: recorded by Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra for Decca/London)
  • Pung Siu-Wen (ca. 1983; for orchestra of Chinese instruments)
  • Alan Gout (1990; for chamber orchestra)
  • Thomas Wilbrandt (1992)
  • Djong Victorin Yu (1993; amended Ravel version: recorded by the arranger with the Philharmonia for IMP)
  • Emile Naoumoff (ca. 1994, in concerto style with some added music, for piano and orchestra)
  • Byrwec Ellison (1995; in the style of various composers)
  • Mekong Delta (1997; for group and orchestra)
  • Carl Simpson (1997)
  • Julian Yu (2002; for chamber orchestra)
  • Jason Wright Wingate (2003; orchestra, organ and chorus)
  • Chao Ching-Wen (2005 for chamber orchestra)
  • Michael Allen (2007)
  • Hanspeter Gmur (date unknown)
  • Misao Kitazume (date unknown)
  • Hidemaro Konoye (date unknown)
  • Leonard Slatkin Various 'compendium' versions, two of which he recorded with the BBC Symphony for Warner Classics and with the Nashville Symphony for Naxos.
  • Clarice Assad (2008, for the New Century Chamber Orchestra)

Arrangements for other forces

A listing of arrangements of Pictures at an Exhibition for performing forces other than orchestra:

  • Giuseppe Becce (1930; for piano trio)
  • Vladimir Horowitz (1946; revised version for solo piano. His performance of this arrangement at a 1951 concert in Carnegie Hall has been described as one of the greatest piano performances of all time)[8]
  • Rudolf Wurthner (ca. 1954; for accordion orchestra; abridged version)
  • Ralph Burns (1957; for jazz orchestra)
  • Erik Leidzen (ca. 1960; for large wind ensemble)
  • Allyn Ferguson (ca. 1963; for jazz orchestra)
  • Mark Hindsley (ca. 1963; for large wind ensemble)
  • Dale Eymann (ca. 1965; for large wind ensemble; The Bogatyr Gates only)
  • Calvin Hampton (1967; for organ)
  • B. Futerman (ca. 1968; Russian folk instruments orchestra, The Bogatyr Gates only)
  • Roger Boutry (ca. 1970; for large wind ensemble)
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1971; rock group, lyrics written by Greg Lake); see Pictures at an Exhibition (album)
  • Harry van Hoof (ca. 1972; brass ensemble; The Bogatyr Gates only)
  • Isao Tomita (1975; for synthesizer)
  • Oskar Gottlieb Blarr (1976; for organ)
  • Elgar Howarth (ca. 1977; for brass ensemble)
  • Ray Barretto (1979; The Old Castle for Latin-jazz band)
  • Arthur Wills (1970s; for organ)
  • Dr. Keith Chapman (1970s; for the Wanamaker organ)
  • Günther Kaunzinger (1980; for organ)
  • Kazuhito Yamashita (1980; for classical guitar)
  • Elgar Howarth (1981; for brass band)
  • Reginald Haché (1982; for two pianos)
  • Hugh Lawson (1983; for jazz trio)
  • Henk de Vlieger (1984; for 14 percussion players, celesta and harp)
  • Arie Abbenes & Herman Jeurissen (ca. 1984; for carillon & band; The Bogatyr Gates only)
  • James Curnow (1985; for large wind ensemble; abridged version)
  • Jan Hala (ca. 1988; for guitar and pop orchestra; Baba-Yaga only)
  • Jean Guillou (ca. 1988; for organ)
  • Michael Briel (ca. 1988; for Commodore Amiga - the "16bit pictures at an exhibition")
  • Heinz Wallisch (ca. 1989; for two guitars)
  • Simon Wright (1991; for large wind ensemble)
  • Yuri Chernov (ca. 1991; for Russian folk instrument orchestra; The Bogatyr Gates only)
  • Jevgenija Lisicina (ca. 1991; for three pipe organs; ca. 1997 for organ and 14 percussion instruments)
  • Gert van Keulen (1992; for band)
  • Hans Wilhelm Plate (1993; for 44 grand pianos and one prepared piano)
  • Jim Prime & Thom Hannum (ca. 1994; for brass quintet and large wind ensemble; abridged version)
  • Hans-Karsten Raecke (ca. 1994; for chorus, vocal soloists, synthesizers, brass and percussion)
  • Tangerine Dream (1994; Promenade for trumpet, saxophone, horns and synthesizer; on their Turn of the Tides album)
  • Friedrich Lips (c. 1994; on the Russian accordion, the bayan)
  • Trevor Parks (1994; for two pianos and wind band)
  • Elmar Rothe (1995; for three guitars)
  • Sergei Sidelnikov (1996; for synthesizer)
  • Mekong Delta (band) (1997; for metal band)
  • Stan Funicelli (1998; Hut of the Baba Yaga and the Great Gate of Kiev; for 3 guitars in New Standard Tuning)
  • Joachim Linckelmann (ca. 1999 for wind quintet)
  • Tohru Takahashi (1999; for band)
  • Michael Allen (2000; for brass ensemble, recorded by the Burning River Brass)
  • Vladimir Boyashov (ca. 2000 for Russian folk orchestra)
  • Christian Lindberg (ca. 2000; for trombone and piano)
  • Simon Proctor (ca. 2000; for euphonium & tuba quartet, retitled Miniatures at an Exhibition))
  • Tim Seddon (ca. 2002 two pianos)
  • Clare & Brent Fisher (2004; for jazz big band)
  • Carl Simpson (2004; for wind orchestra)
  • Wayne Lytle, for the DVD Animusic 2 under the title Cathedral Pictures (2005; for synthesizer; Promenade, Baba Yaga and The Bogatyr Gates)
  • Cameron Carpenter (2006, for organ)
  • Sergei V. Korschmin (2006; for brass ensemble)
  • Walter Hilgers (2006; for large brass ensemble, percussion, and two harps)
  • David Aydelott (2006; for marching band)
  • Joseph Kreines (2006; for band, commissioned by the Timber Creek High School Wind Ensemble)
  • Massimo Gabba (2006; for organ)
  • Howard Perlman (2006; for trombone quartet; The Great Gate of Kiev only)
  • Adam Berces (2007; for synthesizer - 'Pictures at an Exxhibition' album)
  • Nicholas Sprenger and Co-Arranger Carter Page (2007; for electric 7-string guitar and electric 4-string bass guitar, Shortened versions of Promenade, The Old Castle, Bydlo and a reprise of Promenade in place of The Great Gate Of Kiev for the Experimental/Avant-Garde/Metal band KHAZM)
  • Mauricio Romero (2007; complete transcription for double bass alone)
  • Tony Matthews (2007; complete transcription for Brass Quintet)
  • Erin Ponto (2007; complete transcription for 2 harps)
  • Merlin Patterson (2007-2008; complete transcription for wind ensemble)
  • Slav de Hren (2008; for a punk-jazz band and vocal ensemble. Some of the pieces are complete transcriptions, others are improvisations on the original theme)
  • Friendly Rich (2009; arranged for avant-garde cabaret jazz ensemble)
  • Tangerine Trees (from April 2009; for electronics)
  • The Synthonic Orchestra, Band & Choir (released 10/12/2009 on Studio Electra label). Arrangement for full orchestra and piano, with added instrumentation, choir, and synthesizer.
  • Duke Ellington (date unknown; for jazz big band)
  • John Boyd (date unknown; for large wind ensemble)
  • William John Coury III (date unknown; for percussion ensemble)
  • Hirokazu Hiraishi (date unknown; for brass octet and three percussion players)
  • Dag Jensen (date unknown; for four bassoons and contrabassoon)
  • Vyacheslav Rozanov (date unknown; for bayan orchestra; The Old Castle only)
  • William Schmidt (date unknown; for saxophone choir);
  • Andres Segovia (date unknown; for guitar; The Old Castle only)
  • Elias Seppälä (date unknown; for band)
  • Atsushi Sugahara (date unknown; for percussion ensemble)
  • Michael Sweeney (date unknown; for large wind ensemble)
  • Ward Swingle (date unknown; for vocal ensemble, double bass and percussion; Limoges only)
  • Akira Yodo (date unknown; for clarinet choir)

Popular references and usage

Atari AV self test screenshot
  • In 1966, Japanese manga artist Osamu Tezuka directed a 50-minute animated film based on Pictures at an Exhibition entitled Tenrankai no e.
  • Gnomus, Tuileries and other excerpts were used extensively for the score of Hanna-Barbera's cartoon series, The Smurfs.
  • An excerpt of the piece was used as part of the score in several episodes of the Warner Bros. animated television series Animaniacs.
  • The piece is used in the NES game Mario Is Missing.
  • An abridgement of the Promenade theme was the theme tune of the British political sit-com The New Statesman.
  • The Promenade theme was used in audio-visual mode in self-test software of 8-bit Atari computers (self test is built into ROM of the computer).
  • The movement Gnomus is played during the interpretive dance scene in the movie The Big Lebowski.
  • The Bogatyr Gates is used as the entrance theme to WWE wrestler and color commentator Jerry "The King" Lawler. Previously the company had used the same music as the entrance theme for other wrestlers portrayed as the "King of Wrestling", most notably Harley Race and Haku.
  • A society has been devoted to the promotion of performances and arrangements of the suite: International Kartinki s Vystavki Association (IKVA).
  • The "Promenade" theme is also featured in the background music selections in The Incredible Machine game series since part 2 of the serie.
  • The "Promenade" was used for comedy character Horacio Cascarin's "Museum of Soccer" created by the Mexican comedian Andrés Bustamante.
  • Animusic's Cathedral Pictures is based on Pictures at an Exhibition, consisting of the first "Promenade", "The Hut on Hen's Legs (Baba Yaga)", and "The Bogatyr Gates".
  • Part of "The Hut on Hen's Legs" (Baba Yaga) was used as the theme music for the 1977 BBC documentary series The Secret War.
  • The Promenade theme is used at the opening of rapper Method Man's first solo album, Tical (album).
  • A short excerpt from "Baba Yaga" is used in the animated television series South Park episode "Tweek vs. Craig" as Kenny imagines all the sharp tools he'd be around if he transferred from Home Ec to Shop Class.
  • The Promenade was used as the jingle (via synthesizer) in the ident logo for the now defunct World Northal Corporation, a distributor of foreign films during the 70s and 80s, most notably Kung Fu Theater type movies.
  • An excerpt of "The Hut on Hen's Legs" is also used in Animalympics during Tatiana Tushenko's gymnastics performance.
  • The ending is heard on the "introduction sequence" of earlier RCA SelectaVision CED videodiscs.
  • On their album entitled Handful of Rain, the band Savatage made a reference to the work in the song "Chance" in the lyrics: "Pictures at an Exhibition/Played as he stood in his trance..."
  • The Promenade theme is used when the main character of the feature film Burn After Reading is put on hold with her insurance company.
  • The Promenade theme can be heard in Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution. Upon the conclusion of a successful campaign, players are invited to view their accomplishments in the Hall of Glory, during which the passage constantly loops.
  • A short clip from Tomita's version of 'Gnomus' was used as the introduction theme for a programme for the hearing impaired in Germany called 'Sehen statt Hören' (Seeing instead of hearing) for many years.
  • "The Great Gate at Kiev" is a recurrent theme used in some episodes of the anime series Rideback.
  • In Michael Jackson's 1995 album, HIStory, the title track of the initial release used the opening from "Great Gate of Kiev" as its introduction, followed by numerous historical quotes. It was replaced with a different but similar melody when the album was released (due to the censoring of "They Don't Care About Us") for unknown reasons. "The Great Gate of Kiev" was, however, used as the anthem for Jackson's 1996-1997 HIStory World Tour, appearing in the introduction, "They Don't Care About Us" and "HIStory".
  • Selections from "Promenade", "Gnomus", "Ballet of Chicks in Their Shells", "Baba Yaga" and "Limoges" appear in Edgar G. Ulmer's 1944 film Bluebeard. The music is arranged by Leo Erdody (1888–1949).
  • The Adler Planetarium (Chicago) in its space show, 3-D Universe: A Symphony, features floating galactic images choreographed to the score of Pictures.
  • Some of the movements included in this suite, such as "The Great Gate of Kiev", were featured in the anime Princess Tutu. Although this one was most notable, others are mentioned in the extras on the Princess Tutu DVDs.
  • The 2008 Japanese visual novel G-Senjou no Maou showcases no less than three arrangements of the Promenade as various renditions of the heroine's leitmotif.
  • A portion of Pictures was used in Justin Hardy's BBC drama, Spanish Flu: The Forgotten Fallen (2009).
  • The 4th Promenade appears as one of the themes in Wings of the Red Star series from the Discovery Channel
  • S A M A E L used a sample of « The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba-Yagá) » for the opening of their song « Baphomet’s Throne » from the album « Ceremony Of Opposites »
  • Tuileries is being listened to by Major Winchester in "The Birthday Girls" episode from the 10th season of M*A*S*H.

See also


  1. ^ Calvocoressi (1956, p. 182).
  2. ^ Schonberg (1981, p. 370).
  3. ^ Gordeyeva (1984: p. 339)
  4. ^ Taruskin (1993: pp. 379-383)
  5. ^ Calvocoressi and Abraham (1946, pp. 172–73).
  6. ^ Frankenstein (1939, p. 282).
  7. ^ Parrott and Ashkenazy (1984, p. 164).
  8. ^ Dubal (2004, p.).


  • Calvocoressi, Michel D. Modest Mussorgsky: His Life and Works. London: Rockliff; Fair Lawn, N.J.: Essential Books, 1956.
  • Calvocoressi, Michel D., and Gerald Abraham. Mussorgsky. Master Musicians, New Series. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.; New York: Dutton, 1946. Revised edition, London: Dent, 1974. ISBN 046003152X.
  • Dubal, David. The Art of the Piano: Its Performers, Literature, and Recordings, third edition, revised and expanded. With accompanying CD recording. Pompton Plains, N.J.: Amadeus Press, 2004. ISBN 1574670883.
  • Frankenstein, Alfred. "Victor Hartmann and Modeste Musorgsky." The Musical Quarterly 25, no. 3 (July 1939): 268–91.
  • Gordeyeva, Ye. (editor), M. P. Musorgskiy: Letters, 2nd edition. Moscow: Music (publisher), 1984 [Гордеева, Е., М. П. Мусоргский: Письма, Москва: Музыка, 1984].
  • Orga, Ates. "Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition on record". International Piano Quarterly 2, no. 5 (Autumn 1998): 32-47.
  • Parrott, Jasper, and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Beyond Frontiers. London: Collins; London: Hamilton; New York: Atheneum, 1984. ISBN 000216373X (Collins); ISBN 0241115752 (Hamilton); ISBN 0689115059 (Atheneum)
  • Russ, Michael. Musorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition. Cambridge Music Handbooks. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-521-38442-7 (hardback); ISBN 0-521-38607-1 (pbk).
  • Schonberg, Harold C. The Lives of the Great Composers, revised edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1981. ISBN 0-393-01302-2. London: Abacus, 1997. ISBN 0349109729.
  • Taruskin, Richard. Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. ISBN 0691091471.

External links

Simple English

Pictures at an Exhibition is a famous piece of music for solo piano composed by Modest Mussorgsky in 1874. It is Mussorgsky’s best solo piano work. Many years after Mussorgsky’s death a French composer called Maurice Ravel made an arrangement of the piece for orchestra. This arrangement has become very famous and this is the form in which people usually hear the music today.


Composition history


Pictures at an Exhibition is a musical description of an exhibition of pictures by the painter Viktor Hartmannn. Hartmann was only 39 when he died in 1873. He and Mussorgsky had been good friends. They both tried to give their works a very Russian character: Hartmann through his pictures and Mussorgsky through his music. In 1874 an exhibition of Hartmann’s pictures was organised in the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg. Mussorgsky went to the exhibition and was inspired to compose his piano piece.

Pictures at an Exhibition describes someone walking round the exhibition and looking at the pictures. The ten pictures he describes in music were drawings and watercolours. Mussorgsky starts his piece with a tune which describes the person walking round the exhibition. It is usually known as the “promenade” theme (a promenade is a walk). At first Mussorgsky puts the promenade theme between each picture, but he does not do that all the way through the piece. Some of the later pictures have bits of the promenade theme in the music.

Publication history

Mussorgsky composed the piece very quickly, although he was drunk a lot of the time. It was not published until 1886, five years after the composer’s death. The composer’s great friend Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov published it, but he made some changes to what Mussorgsky had written. It was not until 1931 that an edition was published which tried to show exactly what Mussorgsky had written.

Gallery of Hartmann’s pictures

Four of the pictures that Mussorgsky described in his music:

Description of the music

  • The Promenade theme describes a person walking round the exhibition. It has lots of important-sounding chords. Mussorgsky wrote it with a time signature of 11/4, although it is usually written nowadays in 5/4 and 6/4 time.

These are the ten pictures which are then described in Mussorgsky’s music:

  • No. 1 "Gnomus" : This describes a little gnome with crooked legs trying to run around. Hartmann’s sketch may be a drawing of a toy nutcracker.
  • No. 2 "The Old Castle" describes an old medieval castle. A troubadour is singing a song in front of the castle. It is a gentle, rather sad song. In Ravel’s version for orchestra the tune is played on the alto saxophone.
  • No. 3 "Tuileries" describes children playing in a park called Tuileries which is in the centre of Paris. It has a little tune which sounds like children singing a teasing song.
  • No. 4 "Bydło" describes a cart which is being pulled by oxen. In Ravel’s orchestral version the tune is played by the tuba. It sounds very low and heavy.
  • No. 5 The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" describes little canary chicks which are still in their eggs. The picture was based on a ballet which had been produced in 1870.
  • Ballet des poussins dans leurs coques (file info)

    • No. 6 "Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuÿle" describes two Jews. One is rich and the other one is poor.
    • No. 7 "The Market at Limoges" describes French women quarreling in the market. Limoges is a city in central France.
    • No. 8 "The Catacombs" describes the dark Paris catacombs with loud and soft chords. The promenade theme is heard in a ghostly form.
    • No. 9 "The Hut on Hen’s Legs" is about a picture in which Hartmann draws a clock in the form of Baba-Yaga's hut on hen's legs
    • No. 10 "The Bogatyr Gates" are the gates to Kiev. Usually this movement is called The Great Gate of Kiev. Hartmann drew a design for a huge gate which was to be built to remember how the Tsar just escaped death on 4 April 1866. The design won a prize, but the gate was never built. Mussorgsky uses huge chords to describe the massive gate.


    • Calvocoressi, M.D., Modest Mussorgsky: His Life and Works, London: Rockliff, 1956


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