Program Notes


Movement descriptions by Vladimir Stasov

Gnomus - "A sketch depicting a little gnome, clumsily running with crooked legs."
Il vecchio castello - "A medieval castle before which a troubadour sings a song."
Tuileries - "An avenue in the garden of the Tuileries, with a swarm of children and nurses"
Bydło - "A Polish cart on enormous wheels, drawn by oxen."
Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks in their shells
Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuÿle - "Two Jews: Rich and Poor"
Limoges, le marché - "The Market at Limoges”
Catacombæ - "Hartmann represented himself examining the Paris catacombs by the light of a lantern"
The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba-Yagá) - " a clock in the form of Baba Yaga's hut on fowl's legs”
The Great Gate of Kiev – “a monumental gate for Tsar Alexander II”

In 1870, Mussorgsky was introduced by the influential critic Vladimir Stasov to artist and architect Viktor Hartmann; the two felt an immediate kinship and developed a deep friendship. The waves of nationalism that swept 19th Century Europe affected the arts and politics of the time and both men endeavored to develop a home-grown Russian art. Three years later, Hartmann died suddenly from an aneurysm at the age of 39 leaving Mussorgsky devastated. Hartmann’s friends organized an exhibition of over 400 of his works in the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg in February 1874 in which Mussorgsky lent many pieces from his personal collection. Walking through the gallery, the composer was moved to commemorate his friend not only by referencing specific works but by inserting himself into the piece as a solitary walker (“Promenade”) moving through the gallery, lingering over some works, and pausing to reflect. Most of the paintings and watercolors have since been lost, yet several remain along with Stasov’s descriptions matching each section to a painting.

Program notes by David Yang