NZSO Sessions 2022: Rhapsody
Israeli-born conductor and pianist Asher Fisch leads the NZSO in a vibrant programme including Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' and 'American in Paris', Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition', and Dvořák's 'Carnival Overture'. Recorded in the Michael Fowler Centre, in March 2022.
Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
The piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition was written quickly in June 1874. Mussorgsky originally called this cycle ‘Hartmann’ in tribute to his friend, the artist Victor Hartmann, who died suddenly the previous year. He was honoured by a commemorative exhibition and Mussorgsky chose to portray in music ten drawings from the 400 displayed.
First – a clumsy gnome with crooked legs; now, an Italian castle where a troubadour sings; On to the garden play of French children; then comes the heavy tread of oxen pulling a Polish cart; next, see the ballet of the unhatched chicks; by contrast, two Jewish men – one rich, one poor; and now great excitement from French women at the market; then, enter the Paris catacombs by lantern light; and from Slavic folklore, take in the witchy hen-legged hut of Baba Yaga; finally, revel in Hartmann’s heroic design – his would-be gates for the city Kiev – the majestic climax to a monumental tour.
The vividness of the piano score has inspired at least five orchestrations, including those by Leopold Stokowski and, more recently, Vladimir Ashkenazy. But the brilliant setting by Maurice Ravel remains a concert favourite. Mussorgsky’s colourful piano suite, with its ever-varied promenade interludes, gave Ravel enormous scope for sophisticated instrumental characterisation.