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Pictures at an Exhibition

Pictures at an Exhibition is a famous suite of musical pieces; it was composed by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky originally for piano and first made public in 1874. Mussorgsky wrote the original composition as a commemoration of his close friend, the architect and sometimes painter Viktor Hartmann, who was only 39 when he died in 1873. In 1874 an exhibition was organized in honor of Hartmann.

Pictures at an Exhibition musically illustrates a visit to this exhibition by the composer. The idea of composing Program Music based on a non-musical concept was popular during the Romantic Music Era. Pictures at an Exhibition incorporates musical pieces representing ten of Hartmann's images, with an additional Promenade theme representing the viewer walking from exhibit to exhibit. The promenade theme is repeated several times, but further and further apart, representing a viewer who is being drawn into the works and becoming lost in thought.

Pictures at an Exhibition was later arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel in 1922. Many other arrangements have been created, and the original piano composition is also performed, but Ravel's arrangement is the most popular form of the work.

There have also been two very different rock music interpretations, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer and an electronic music adaptation by Isao Tomita.

Pictures at an Exhibition has the following order:

Oddly enough, only three of the ten pictures represented actually appeared in the 1874 Hartmann exhibit: The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks, Baba Yaga's Hut, and The Great Gate of Kiev.