North Carolina Symphony Offers a Burst of Bright Orchestral Color this January with “Pictures at an Exhibition”.
Sometimes music is inspired by another art form, such as a painting, poem, or drama; sometimes it is written as an outlet for emotional expression. In the case of Mussorgsky’s famous Pictures at an Exhibition, both are true.
In 1874, Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky was shaken by the death of his close friend, artist and architect Victor Hartmann, who was just 39 years old. Hartmann’s artwork was displayed at a memorial exhibit; Mussorgsky, in order to honor the life of his friend as well as work through his own grief, composed Pictures at an Exhibition in response to the paintings and sketches he saw there. Originally written for piano, the best-known version of the work is an orchestration completed by Maurice Ravel in 1923.
The North Carolina Symphony’s first Classical Series concert of the new year features this captivating orchestral showpiece, together with Beethoven’s boisterous and buoyant Symphony No. 4. Performed in Southern Pines on January 11, this program is certain to brighten spirits this winter.
The concert will be led by guest conductor Rune Bergmann, who is Music Director of Canada’s Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of Poland’s Szczecin Philharmonic. In addition to conducting orchestras and opera houses around the world, Bergmann is also a multitalented musician who plays the trumpet, piano, violin, and viola.
Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition offers wonderful musical variety, with memorable melodies that brilliantly depict Hartmann’s artwork—children at play in a Parisian garden, a troubadour singing a doleful lament in front of a foreboding castle, a bustling marketplace, a majestic imagined gateway to the city of Kiev, and much more. Ravel took Mussorgsky’s already evocative score and created even more vivid imagery by masterfully utilizing the tone colors of each instrument—including some that are not frequently found in the orchestra.
“Every instrument has amazing moments in this piece—even the saxophone!” explains Principal Tuba Seth Horner, noting that it contains some of the most exciting brass playing in the repertoire. “Performing this music is an electrifying experience, and if you’re in the audience, goosebumps are pretty much guaranteed.”
Assistant Principal Clarinet Michael Cyzewski adds, “There is no greater orchestrator in the business than Maurice Ravel! You’re going to be excited by all the bright colors that he evokes.”
Assistant Principal Clarinet Michael Cyzewski discusses the vivid Pictures at an Exhibition.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, written during a summer spent at a castle in the Hungarian countryside, reflects a halcyon time in the composer’s life. Lighthearted and sublime, it was the calm before the storm of the dramatic Symphony No. 5.
Audience members are invited to meet conductor Rune Bergmann at a free talk at 7 pm before the concerts in Southern Pines. To learn more, please visit ncsymphony.org.
North Carolina Symphony
Pictures at an Exhibition
Thursday, January 11 at 8 pm
Pinecrest High School (Southern Pines)
North Carolina Symphony
Rune Bergmann, conductor
Beethoven: Symphony No. 4
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
TICKETS start at $18
Online: ncsymphony.org (TicketMaster fees apply)
By phone: 919.733.2750 ($8 processing fee applies)
Feature photo: A collection of paintings and illustrations by Russian artist and architect Victor Hartmann inspired Mussorgsky’s famous Pictures at an Exhibition, which the North Carolina Symphony will perform January 11 at Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines.