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Isao Tomita - Pictures At An Exh

The composition is based on pictures by the artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann. It was probably in 1868 that Mussorgsky first met Hartmann, not long after the latter's return to Russia from abroad. Both men were devoted to the cause of an intrinsically Russian art and quickly became friends. They likely met in the home of the influential critic Vladimir Stasov, who followed both of their careers with interest. According to Stasov's testimony, in 1868, Hartmann gave Mussorgsky two of the pictures that later formed the basis of Pictures at an Exhibition.[1] In 1870, Mussorgsky dedicated the second song ("In the Corner") of the cycle The Nursery to Hartmann. Stasov remarked that Hartmann loved Mussorgsky's compositions, and particularly liked the "Scene by the Fountain" in his opera Boris Godunov. Mussorgsky had abandoned the scene in his original 1869 version, but at the requests of Stasov and Hartmann, he reworked it for Act 3 in his revision of 1872.[2]

Isao Tomita - Pictures At An Exh

Mussorgsky based his musical material on drawings and watercolours by Hartmann produced mostly during the artist's travels abroad. Locales include Italy, France, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. Today most of the pictures from the Hartmann exhibition are lost, making it impossible to be sure in many cases which Hartmann works Mussorgsky had in mind.

Arts critic Alfred Frankenstein gave an account of Hartmann, with reproductions of his pictures, in the article "Victor Hartmann and Modeste Mussorgsky" in The Musical Quarterly (July 1939).[11] Frankenstein claimed to have identified seven pictures by catalogue number, corresponding to:

Vladimir Stasov's program, identified below,[13] and the six known extant pictures suggest the ten pieces that make up the suite correspond to eleven pictures by Hartmann, with "Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuÿle" accounting for two. The five Promenades are not numbered with the ten pictures and consist in the composer's manuscript of two titled movements and three untitled interludes appended to the first, second, and fourth pictures.[14]

The first musician to arrange Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition for orchestra was the Russian composer and conductor Mikhail Tushmalov. However, his version (first performed in 1891 and possibly produced as early as 1886 when he was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov)[22] does not include the entire suite: Only seven of the ten "pictures" are present, leaving out "Gnomus", "Tuileries", and "Cattle", and all the Promenades are omitted except for the last one, which is used in place of the first.

The next orchestration was undertaken by the British conductor Henry Wood in 1915. He recorded a few sections of his arrangement on a pair of acoustic Columbia 78rpm discs in 1920. However, he withdrew his version when Maurice Ravel's orchestration was published, and banned every public performance in the 1930s in deference to Ravel's work. Wood's arrangement has also been recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Nicholas Braithwaite and issued on the Lyrita label. All but the first of the Promenade movements were omitted and other passages extensively re-composed. Wood's orchestration was once described by Gordon Jacob as "superior to Ravel's in picturesqueness and vividness",[23] with its off-stage camel-bells in "Cattle" and grand organ in "The Great Gate of Kyiv".

In 1928, the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky created a stage show by combining his own designs for the pictures with a performance of the piano score.[36] Since it was put on at Dessau, elements of the staging have been lost. However, it has proved possible to animate the surviving art work using video technology.

Stereo Pop Special-121 is a BBC transcription disc of part of what is claimed to be Tomita's first concert appearance (more likely first overseas), from London's Hammersmith Odeon on 26th March 1976. It must have been a strange evening, the great man introduced by Bob Walker, who explains the goings-on to the audience; whether this was more for the radio audience or not, history does not relate. Without any pictures of Tomita's stage set-up, it's hard to know just what equipment he actually used on the night, although Walker claims 'Moog synthesizer and Mellotron'. Alongside album excerpts, including a piece from Daphnis et Chlo&eacute, four years pre-release, the album features the bizarre, eleven-minute Synthesiser Sounds Demonstration, Walker talking us through Tomita's live demo of how he built up tracks using just the two instruments. Not very rock'n'roll, but then, he wasn't.


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