Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sviatoslav Richter Plays Mussorgsky

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." Mussorgsky, himself a sufferer of delirium tremens and complications from alcoholism, would die seven years later at the age of forty-two. 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.
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 fac simile in 1975.

Source :

Sviatoslav Richter
(Sofia, 2/1958)


Modest Mussorgsky

(Original version)

1 I. Promenade  1:35
2 II. No. 1 "Gnomus"  2:27
3 III. [Untitled] (Interlude, Promenade theme)  0:44
4 IV. No. 2 "Il vecchio castello"  4:27
5 V. [Untitled] (Interlude, Promenade theme)  0:23
6 VI. No. 3 "Tuileries" (Dispute d'enfants après jeux)  0:56
7 VII. No. 4 "Bydło"  2:14
8 VIII. [Untitled] (Interlude, Promenade theme)  0:33
9 IX. No. 5 "Балет невылупившихся птенцов"  1:09
10 X. No. 6 "Samuel" Goldenberg und "Schmuÿle"  1:41
11 XI. Promenade  1:07
12 XII. No. 7 "Limoges, le marché" (La grande nouvelle)  1:17
13 XIII. No. 8 "Catacombæ" (Sepulcrum romanum) and
"Cum mortuis in lingua mortua"  1:55
14 XIV. Cum mortuis in lingua mortua  1:57
15. XV. No. 9 "Избушка на курьих ножках" (Баба-Яга)  2:51
16 XVI. No. 10 "Богатырские ворота" (В стольном городе во Киеве)  5:01

Franz Schubert

17. Moment musical in C, Op. 94 n° 1  5:48
18. Impromptu in E-flat, Op. 90 n° 2  4:16
19. Impromptu in E-flat, Op. 90 n° 4  7:20

Frédéric Chopin

20. Etude in E, Op. 10 n° 3 "Tristesse" 4:13

Franz Liszt

21. Valse oubliée n° 1 in E-Sharp  2:53
22. Valse oubliée n° 2 A-Flat  5:53

Etudes d'Exécution transcendante
23. N° 5 in B-Flat "Feux Follets"  3:36
24. N° 11 in D-Flat "Harmonie du Soir"  9:26


Sviatoslav Richter - p

Recorded Live in Budapest, Sofia ; February 1958


chris said...

Richter is supreme in this work - many thanks for both the Sofia and Prague recordings - much appreciated

Melanchthon said...

chuchuni said...

Thanks a lot, Mel.

Ariel said...

Very anxious to hear this! Much appreciatted!