Classics of the Phonograph

Pictures at an Exhibition

Painting of Modeste Mussorgsky

Ilya Repin's celebrated portrait of Modeste Mussorgsky, painted 2–5 March 1881, only a few days before the composer's death. By Ilya Repin - Tretyakov Gallery, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Whether it is true that music can convey paintings and drawings, Modeste Mussorgsky thought so, and wrote his piano suite “Pictures at an Exhibition” about the drawings of his friend Viktor Hartmann. Maurice Ravel orchestrated the piano suite, adding to the pictorial nuance. On this week's Classics of the Phonograph, Saturday at 11 am on WILL-FM, we will stroll through that musical exhibition, sampling the way some famous conductors have interpreted those drawings.


Line up for Pics at an Exhibition, playing portions: all Ravel version, except as noted.

Boston Symphony Orch., Serge Koussevitzky (he commissioned the Ravel version)

Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski (his own orchestration)

London Philharmonic Orch., Ernest Ansermet (Decca FFRR)

Chicago Symphony Orch., Raphael Kubelik (Mercury Living Presence)

Philadelphia Orch., Eugene Ormandy (Lucien Cailliet version)

NBC Symphony, Arturo Toscanini

London Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, last two sections (his own version, in Decca Stereo Phase 4 sound)

Great Gate of Kiev: Vladimir Horowitz playing Mussorgsky original piano version, "improved" by Howowitz