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Modest Mussorgsky

Modest Mussorgsky

COOS BAY — The Coos County Community Concert Association will bring pianist, Ilya Yakushev, to the Egyptian Theatre at 3 .m. Sunday, Nov. 4. A musical journey will start with a promenade. Half of his program will be Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Yakushev will play the original piano score of this stroll through a musical art gallery and show on a screen pictures to illustrate what Mussorgsky used for inspiration. The Russian composer based his musical material on drawings and watercolours by Viktor Hartmann which were produced mostly during the artist's travels abroad in Italy, France, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine.

The music depicts Mussorgsky’s tour of the exhibition, with each of the 10 numbers of the suite serving as a musical illustration of an individual work. These illustrations, as the composer called them, represented baby chickens, children, Baba Yaga in her wooden house on chicken legs, catacombs, gates, and even rattling carts in front of an old castle.

The piece opens with the ambulatory “Promenade” in 6/4 time, mimicking a leisurely pace through Hartmann’s art exhibiltion. The composer and pianist stop to look and express 10 pictures musically, starting with the “Gnome,” a nutcracker in the shape of a gnome. Then we see and hear “An Old Castle” and the Tuileries,” where we hear children argue in play.

 “Bydlo” is a delapidated castle with a possible cart in front. Hartman’s original drawings have been mostly lost, and some of the images displayed musically are imagined. “Bydlo" is followed by a “Ballet of Unhatched Chicks.” Imagine children in egg costumes dancing after being hatched.

Then we have “Two Jews,” pictures Hartman, a dear friend of Mussorgsky, had given the composer. The two older men are contrasted musically and then combined wonderfully in counterpoint. They are followed by a different version of the “Promenade” theme, and “Limoges” where women in a market in France, greet each other, gossip, and shop.

Hartmann had died short before the exhibition, and Mussorgsky wrote these piano selections in his memory. “Catacombs,” the next section, shows Hartmann in the Paris catacombs and is a reminder to the composer and listeners of the dead artist.

Mussorgsky ends the entire piece with two splendid selections, starting with “The Hut of Baba Yaga,” which cavorts on its chicken legs through the Siberian forest, and then the witch herself takes off in a mortar and pestle.

The upward flight segues directly into the broad chords of the “Great Gate of Kiev.” Maurice Ravel in his orchestration of “Pictures at an Exhibition” used a thunderous brass choir to accompany a triumphal procession as it passes though the Kievan gates.

The piano version is just as thunderous at the beginning. It subsides to a quiet pause in the supposed festivities, and then the entire piece ends with church bells and choirs singing hymns in praise of the Tsar.

The pianist, Ilya Yakushev, will open the first part of the concert with a piano sonato, possibly the “Moonlight Sonata,” by Beethoven. There is also planned a “Sentimental Waltz” by Tchaikovsky. The first half will end with a piano version of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Tickets for the concert at the Egyptian Theater in downtown Coos Bay will be available at the door. For more information, please contact Jay Farr at 541-297-4008 or visit the Coos County Community Concert Association’s website at www.cccca.com.

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