Pictures at an Exhibition
Pictures at an Exhibition is a collection of ten individual piano pieces composed by Modest Mussorgsky in 1874. Considered a piece in the virtuoso player library, it has been a collection of works that has seen many iterations for a variety of instrumentation and ensembles.
The music is based on a collection of pictures by artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann. Mussorgsky and Hartmann became good acquaintances in their pursuit of realizing a pure Russian art culture. Following Hartmann's death in 1873, Mussorgsky was inspired to write Pictures while attending an exhibition of the late artist's works.
This arrangement of the series for marching band selects several of the most recognizable and popular pieces, including the ever present Promenade, the light-hearted Tuilleries and Ballad of the Unhatched Chicks, as well as the glorious Great Gates of Kiev.
Difficulty - Medium Hard Grade - 4-4.5
PUBLIC DOMAIN - no rights required.
Mvt. I - 'Promenade'
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."
This arrangement features a beginning trumpet solo that is responded to by the rest of the ensemble through an all-wind introduction. With constantly changing meter throughout the piece, the arrangement features flowing and musical percussion, rich woodwind textures, and a full band culmination of the main melody in the end.
Mvt. II - 'Tuilleries - Ballad of the Unhatched Chicks'
Tuilleries has been described as "An avenue in the garden of the Tuileries, with a swarm of children and nurses." This arrangement features a light, sing-song introduction in the front ensemble, then echoed as a woodwind feature, before the brass and percussion enter with a strong ensemble impact.
Ballad of the Unhatched Chicks depicts "Hartmann's design for the décor of a picturesque scene in the ballet Trilby." A quirky, up-beat and light overall piece, the arrangement features a large array of setups - a driving percussion entrance, woodwinds mimicking 'tweets,' and a chromatic build-up throughout the ensemble that gives way to a light, subtle flute and clarinet finish.
Mvt. III - 'Bydlo'
Bydlo, or 'Cattle,' depicts "A Polish cart on enormous wheels, drawn by oxen." Throughout the use of a constant bass ostinato and dynamic swells, the listener can imagine a sad, slow cart being pulled into, through, and out of town.
This arrangement features a trombone/baritone solo that develops the Bydlo melody, played over the simple ostinato in the front ensemble. This gives way to a wind entrance (lightly supported by marching percussion) that cycles through keys up to a more intense drum break leading to a large impact of the main melody in the entire ensemble. The movement wraps up oscillating solos between mellophone, trombone/baritone and tuba.
Mvt. IV - 'The Hut of Baba Yaga - Great Gates of Kiev'
Also known as 'The Hut on Fowl's Legs,' Baba Yaga depicts "Hartmann's drawing depicted a clock in the form of Baba Yaga's hut on fowl's legs. Mussorgsky added the witch's flight in a mortar." Motives in this movement evoke the bells of a large clock and the whirlwind sounds of a chase. The arrangement features heavy percussion and heavily articulated full ensemble passages.
Also known as 'The Bogatyr Gates,' it is said that "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." Hartmann designed a monumental gate for Tsar Alexander II to commemorate the monarch's narrow escape from an assassination attempt on April 4, 1866. The movement's grand main theme exalts the opening Promenade.