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In this first piece Mussorgsky makes his presence known through this motivic musical self-portrait: this main theme and its motives are at once wonderful, ironic, sad and at the same time funny, bitter and at the same time sweet. The whole work is devoted to portraying his “physiognomy,” with this title theme outlining the often conflicting components of his inner soul, a logical soul structured here by his identification with Russian Choral songs. The theme frames the drama’s narrative through the appearance of Mussorgsky’s various states of mind via use of alternating minor and major keys, diverse registers, and different characters and sonorities.

Relying on intuitive, ingenious imagery, Mussorgsky presents a timely and fantastical Interpretation of Hartmann’s European Gnome. Since Russian mythology is absent of this image, Mussorgsky relies on writings from a panoply of European philosophers and writers, filtered through the consciousness of his native, national Russian soil to form his unique creative vision. Refracting sketches of Russian folklore characters, including images of “evil spirit”, he uses his mastery of parody and satire to create a comprehensive picture of a folk-tale dwarf.

Mussorgsky then transports us to the next Picture using a light, “swinging” promenade. 

Old Castle
This work opens with the stark image of a medieval Italian castle. An allegory of old stone, the sadness of decay, it is a metaphoric farewell to Mussorgsky’s dearly missed friend Hartmann, the artist behind the pictures. Played out from the composer’s imagination is a sensuous saga of the once vibrant castle’s lost life. This melody, based on the popular motifs of Neapolitan Italian tarantellas, plays out the dance of the ballad over a pulsing tambourine beat in the bass. Layered melodies from Mussorgsky’s soul join musical imageries to transport us from the exhilaration of life to the sad, readily interpretable funereal bell’s “Farewell to Life.”

An energetic self-portrayal plays out the Promenade in a manner reminiscent of modern rock to break the dramatic mood.  

Drawing with music, Mussorgsky uses his great heart to treat us with his cinematic sketch of young children’s richly intimate, sensitive inner world played out through a cycle of an ancient Russian game. We are treated to a glimpse of their youthful world’s rich poignancy as boy-girl pairs chase after each other, while the person who is “It” allegorically “burns” until he or she tags another. We hear the exhilaration of the playful chase, the pause of the tagging, the fleeting light of brief childhood romance before the chase resumes again.

Thematically rooted in the Belarusian-Polish folk tradition, Mussorgsky creates an interesting, but tragic, folk sketch. Drawing inspiration from Hartmann, the artist musically paints a folk allegory about oxen pulling a roughly constructed, unevenly worn cart with gnarled wheels as it rolls tiredly along crude unpaved gullies. The composer’s imagination plays out thoughts and intentions from his inner psyche for us to examine and compare through the lens of our own life experiences; to reflect on our fate as laborers, as humans fated to share the “eternal yoke.”

Burdened by heavy emotion, a tearful harmonic progression evolves from misery, to contemplation of life, to humor, gradually walking us toward a new mood of comedy and conversation.

The Ballet of Unhatched Chicks 

Demanding fragility and controlled virtuosity, Mussorgsky humorously uses sound to cinematically imitate nature in this surreal work. Inspired by Hartmann’s ballet sketches, and conscious of the timeless chicken and egg proverb, the composer’s poignant song sensitively describes the plight, pecking, hatching, the uncertain gait of the chicks, all the while exposing his devilish sense of humor. We are led away from the coop as the work concludes with a rooster’s cry.

Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle
Rooted in Jewish folk melodies, this piece is intensely personal, self-reflective, and humanistic in its considerate, introspective portrait of two Jewish men of opposing means and character, and of the tragic conflict this engenders. It is a commentary on the lamentable chasm between the rich and poor, and is inspired by a combination of Mussorgsky’s own Russian experiences and the images of Polish Jews drawn by Hartmann.

Instead of repeating himself, Mussorgsky expands his self-portrait. He shows himself to be mentally strengthened by his having passed through the previous tragic dialogue with the spirit of a loved one. He proceeds to walk us thematically through the gallery towards the finale with a vitally transformed mind and spirit.

Set in an open market, this picture draws on Mussorgsky’s humanity and mastery of cinematic satire. His music combines comedy and commentary about the sometime-silliness of humanity with a call for virtuosity. The clamoring Scherzo describes the tumult of the scene, the artistic imagery of the gossips, and parades our incorrigible humanity as the work accelerates to its close.

Mussorgsky, consumed by the permanent and irreversible loss of his friend Hartmann, paints in music the confrontation of his own mortality as well as that of humanity with death. He portrays how the sadness of death has driven him to despair. He shares an imagined encounter with his deceased friend in “the other world.” This work is an epic monument to the Russian soul which ends with a portrayal of the composer’s own experience of enlightenment and tranquility.

Baba Yaga
Unlike his reference to mythology in the Gnome, this piece is rooted in Mussorgsky’s deep physiological understanding and sense of evil. The character “Baba Yaga,” is an apotheosis of everything dark in the Russian soul – aggressiveness, meanness, everything untoward that dwells in the soul of every person, and in particular, of Russian persons. This piece prefigures the exit into eternal light that occurs in the next part of the exhibit.

Finale – The Golden Gates of Kiev 
Unable to rationalize the death of his friend Hartmann, the Finale is the story of how faith revealed to Mussorgsky a way to gain relief from despair. Greatly inspired through the pictures by these revelations, he faces his inner fears and doubts, allowing him to generally overcome them. Using musical quotations from Slavonic prayer songs (including bell ringing), his ascension is played out – emerging from the depths of evil and the hardships of life, he enters a place where there is nothing but light, where there is no evil. With a grand Promenade, he walks into the light – a victoryof understanding over ignorance – an apotheosis of good and happiness. The composer’s transformation completes with a ringing of the golden bell.

                                                                                                                           English CD Notes Prepared by Todd & Svetlana Harris

Part 1 “Promenade”

Today I want to begin a long conversation with listeners, which will continue without end, until the logical conclusion, until the end of my life. This conversation is very important, where we will talk about the most important works of piano literature. 


Today I want to start with Mussorgsky’s remarkable “Pictures at an Exhibition”, which needs a very big rethinking. I am absolutely convinced that listeners should be trained to understand the music that they are going to listen to.
“Do we need to explain the music?” I often hear such a question. This is not quite the right question, not quite the right understanding of the task of the musician and artist, who gives a glimpse into his workshop, or his studio, to his esteemed public. This is not an explanation of music; it’s a completely different process. You can not explain the music, because it speaks for itself. Also it is impossible, and it is not necessary. But it is absolutely necessary to know and understand how music “works”‐ in quotes. To perform serious music properly, and to fully convey the composer’s intentions, the performer must understand precisely the musical world, language, thoughts, and emotions of the composer that is being presented to his intended audience. This is a very exciting moment, a living moment of communication with the living soul of the composer, which is left to us in his live music forever.

In the case of serious works, and especially with great compositions filled with endless meanings, special preparation must be undertaken by the performer and the listener alike to fully understand the composer’s inner world. The lack of such practice ‐ the training of listeners and even professionals ‐ has led the musical world to the fact that the performers themselves sometimes perform a work for centuries and at the same time still do not know it fully, and as such, they make mistakes in interpreting the meanings, misunderstand the principles upon which the music is built, its underlying laws, and its intended narrative.

Let’s try to break this vicious tradition. Fortunately, in our time, and only recently, it has become possible for musicians to appeal directly to the public from their home, their workshop, and their studio, which makes it possible to strengthen the immediacy and intimacy of the connection between the artist, his friends and the public around the world. And most importantly, it enables us together to raise the level of performing art from the outdated, historically outdated, intuitive, semi‐shamanic level of the reflexive to the level of the modern, technologically enlightened public; a new society that lives in a completely different technological era, but at the same time culturally and spiritually still remains a backward, archaic society.

Let’s try together to understand the author’s musical language, where each picture, each individual movement gives ample opportunities to communicate in general, though his musical series.
That is, today we will only tackle the beginning, the so‐called “Promenade”, “The Walk” ‐ the first movement of this marvelous piano‐symphonic work of Mussorgsky.

“Promenade” … Mussorgsky belongs to the rarest of composers - those whose music carries a very large specific weight, in every bar, and literally in every tone. There are very few such composers. And there are not many such compositions as “Pictures” in the piano literature either. The significance of each tone, each modulation, and each musical step is rivaled only by the best works of Schumann, the best works of Tchaikovsky and the best works of Beethoven by virtue of the saturation of the images. Wherein literally every note carries an artistic meaning, an artistic load.

Now I want us together to analyze the wishes of  Mussorgsky, which he writes in Italian, as is the tradition of composers, because all the terminology of the musicians is in Italian as well. What does Modest Petrovich write? He writes Allegro giusto, which has two meanings: either accurately, quickly, in precise rapid movement, or, to which I’m more inclined to use, Allegro giusto as a comfortable, fast movement, not too fast and not too slow. The second meaning best matches the character of the composer, so I interpret it in this sense, in the second meaning. Then he very carefully wrote a whole great phrase, what composers do very rarely, when they want to be accurately understood. Further he writes nel modo russico, ‐ “in Russian”. Well, since I address the Russian language to the Russian‐speaking public, to the Russian‐speaking audience, to my friends, who think in Russian, we understand each other without explanation, what it means in “Russian”. It means – broadly, with daring, chanting, and maybe, somewhat, disorderly. That is associated with the Russian expanses, with the Russian character.

Further ‐ the most important instruction, through the comma, follows, which tells that Mussorgsky asks us, intensely asks, attracting our attention, to concentrate on the inner world of the Promenade, or in the vernacular, “Walking”. And here we find a big discrepancy, when for 150 years musicians focus primarily on the outside. They try to picture the gait, the body language at best. This is more an expression of the outside world rather than that of the inside. But one way or another, they concentrate in this work mainly on the outside.The name, “Pictures from an Exhibition”, refers to artful pictures we all familiar with. Unfortunately, such superficial thinking in approaching this work led to an interpretation, led away from the inner world, led away from the main idea of Modest Petrovich, who wanted to show, of course, something entirely different here than the pictures. The pictures here are only a distraction from the inner world Mussorgsky is reacting to. And through focusing on his inner world in his music, he willfully and unintentionally tells us about time, about life, about the customs of Russia in the mid‐19th century and the whole culture that preceded it, which he absorbed into his Self, rooting his experience as a native Russian man.

So, what is Mussorgsky asking of us? Senza allegrezza, which means “without joy.”  Therefore, this desire can not refer to the external; it refers exclusively to the inner world. There can be no gait termed externally joyless. That is, even if we have a bleak gait, a walk, then it is expressing the state of our inner world. This is the most important thing that we have to concentrate on. Senza allegrezza. Without joy … Humbly, sadly, forcing you to live and move. Or maybe, most likely even in this particular case, referring to forcing himself to go to an exhibition, which he especially does not want to go to, because all this is exciting, but at the same time tragic and not entirely pleasant. Well and further he asks poco sostenuto, ‐ “with some restraint”. Here is such a long introduction. A whole small literary introduction. Which is unusual for the composer, who, in theory, was to only designate in two words: the tempo and movement?

Let’s move on to the material itself and we will move step by step, trying to understand what Modest Petrovich wants to express in this music. How not to make mistakes in the tempo ratios, how to find the right tempo, character, and try to penetrate into the inner world of the person who is obviously hinting that he is going to expound on the state of his inner world in this music, and not at all to paint children’s pictures?

So, the first musical theme. 10:29 

It is very unusual that we have a variable rhythm ‐ 5 quarters, 6 quarters, together we get 11 quarters. What can it symbolize? There is no desire to be expressive in the national style. Through his very rhythm ‐ and Modest Petrovich himself admitted this ‐ the “Promenade” represents his physiognomy. This is his personal confession. When the composer, again, makes such confessions, he talks about the source of his inspiration; he talks about the source of what gave birth to this work, that is, his physiognomy. And he admits this.

This is usually never done by composers, because they do not want to be understood in such a primitive way. And they do not want to fill our ears and hearts with something rooted only in basic impulses ‐ especially when such material forms the basis or main impulse to this or that work. Rachmaninov, for example, always avoided such confessions. He always believed that we should guess. Shostakovich also avoided this, but then very much regretted that he did not give us any clues.

Here Modest Petrovich says: “This is me. Тhis is my physiognomy”. Open text, in his letter, it’s me. This is my face. And, he says it ironically. Hence, he has a self‐ironical attitude to his own persona, which speaks of a high level of culture, intelligence and a developed sense of humor. Therefore, I very often draw a parallel with the great literary work of the Russian “Moscow‐Petushki” by Venedikt Erofeev, who is an absolute spiritual follower of this root irony, this musical and literary trend and the view of the native Russian man on the people and on himself.

So, 11 quarters. This indicates the complete disorder of the inner world. On the impossibility of putting a strong beat. It always hesitates and shifts. This means that we immediately have an ironic self‐portrait statement, where Mussorgsky says: “Well, yes, here I am, a Russian bear. Today is one thing, tomorrow is different. ” Therefore, 11 quarters. 13:26 Humpty Dumpty. How to determine the correct tempo? Obviously, if we continue the next two measures. 13:42 we are dealing with a choral theme. That is, he identifies his inner world, his basic mood, naturally, being a true national representative. And highly intellectual, he feels his connection with the earth, therefore he takes a chant, a refrain and a chorus, which most organically conveys the basis of his character, the basis of his internal state – broad and dimensionless – using 11 quarters because it is an impractical time signature.. 1Here he is so broad, here he is so Russian. And his basic state, his basis of character, his spirit, he associates with the Russian chant. This statement is obvious and irrefutable. Therefore, we have a solo part 14:54, brightly pronounced and with a choral accompaniment.

So, in choosing the tempo, we should start from that of the natural choral, Russian, broad singing. And at once we will face the mistake of interpreters who in our time have completely forgotten about the semantic pauses that can and should be in the text, depending on musical logic. Now I turn to very important professional things.
Now, the chant or solo part and the chorus. So that we do not miss the tempo, we should … And this does not raise any doubt that in these four bars we have vocal folk singing. It will not be challenged by anyone; no one will even try to argue with this, since it is an established fact, established by musicologists.

But where is the main error of the interpreters? The main mistake of the interpreters is that they play the text, starting from the middle of the 20th century, in a row, trusting the graphics and thinking that in this way they purify it and make a verbatim reading of the musical text. Equally bad are the romantic and incomprehensible movements from the early 20th century or the end of the 19th century; all sorts of romantic or pseudo‐romantic nonsense made by ancient interpreters ‐ we know from early recordings that they were only the result of bad taste. Then, in the middle of the 20th century, musicians wanted to have good taste and all began to read texts in a row, which turned to the fact that they, just like woodpeckers, began to chisel the graphic text, forgetting what it takes to start always from the logic of music, and from the logic of the text.

The logic of a musical language has two hypostases. There is the logic of the language, regardless of the composer. This is how we see here that this is a choral movement. That is, the choral movement, choral singing here it already tells us one logic. And there is a second logic, the language of the author. When we know the author’s personality, when we know a lot about the author’s personality, when we experience the life experience of the author’s personality. We know that the logic of life , the knowledge of the logic of life, of one or another author also narrows the possibility of error.

So, let’s move on to these first 4 bars, which I’ve been talking about for so long. Where is the main mistake ? 18:14 You can not play a chant and a chorus all at once as just one continuum because it never is presented this way ‐ it does not happen. This contradicts the logic of the musical language. Because the chorus has to collect air in an elementary way, and begins singing its part only after the agogical pause following the completion of the lead part which has been sung by the soloist. And using this analysis the first 4 bars acquire a completely different meaning. As for the pace, it is not difficult to imagine a broad‐reaching, fast tempo in which you can sing without swallowing phrases. But unfortunately, the Traditions developed over the years don’t accommodate this musical logic. The tempos are usually accelerated. It is impossible to sing extensively in these tempos. It is impossible to feel like the Russian man feels – what Mussorgsky wants to convey to us. 19:26 Any of us who sings with the choir knows that after the song we will at least turn our face to the choir, and the choir will respond.19:41This means that between the first solo and choral solo, there must necessarily be some logical pause, without which the music immediately loses all meaning. And we immediately lose character.


I’m not implying that many composers who did orchestrations of this work were wrong , rather that they just didn’t understand what this music is all about from the outset. For example, the famous orchestration of Ravel shows that he did not even understand the character of these first 4 bars; instead of a broad‐sung voice with a chorus, he gave the melody to the trumpet. Big mistake. He immediately transferred everything to a plain and one dimensional coloring. The plaintive faraway human voice of the soul, especially the soul of a Russian, can not sound like a trumpet. The trumpet is too brash to be songful. 20:50 This is already a flat, unpleasant, gilded, golden ball: a cockerel that has nothing to do with the music of Mussorgsky’s soul. Then, another mistake is made. When the chants end, Ravel stops the sound of the trumpet and gives a development section to the stringed instruments.
21:25 Therefore, after 6 introductory ticks, where the music develops, where the flow of music, the flow of thought of the inner world of Mussorgsky should become more expansive, Ravel contracts its dynamic scope by giving it away to the strings. And thus there is a second big mistake - in dynamics. After the bright trumpet, instead of expanding the sound, its narrowing comes, because the strings sound much softer. 22:04 And it turns out that this coloring takes us to a completely different plane, takes us away from the intended point. 


And Ravel’s coloring, as a rule, is copied by pianists – performing this part with an artificial diminuendo, or rather, artificial sound reduction, changing from the loud dynamic of the introduction to a quieter one, where it should actually be the opposite ‐ Mussorgsky’s inner world should unfold and open up and expand not contract. It expands in a rhythmic way, and its sonority similarly expands as well. So, from the very beginning, from the first 6 bars, we already have 2, 3, 4 and 5 errors, which lead us completely to another plain and force us to take false steps in walking the path of this work.

Let’s move on to the text directly.
23:14 The soloist turns to the choir. 23:22 It’s also very important, as I said, since every tone matters, to provide a little micro dynamics. It is absolutely necessary for us to show changes in moods in every tone of this wonderful narrative of the inner world, that is, 23:48 the major expresses a certain optimism; the transition to a minor, expresses doubt; 24:01 a return to the major brings back hope;
24:06 then leaving in the distant major, symbolizes some question mark,
24:16 and then we return. This is an amazingly rich series, which consists of only 11 chords, but it already narrates quite a bit about the immensity of the author’s inner state.

So, now I will play it without interruption, as I consider it necessary and as it seems to me correctly to read this very important, main statement of the beginning of the big play, the beginning of the display of Mussorgsky’s musical self‐portrait. 24:52


Very interesting remark of the author, when he, after short, first expansive statements to us, reveals his soul, but suddenly, in the middle of the phrase, he breaks off, showing a pause. What does he mean by that? He wants to say that, again, when he talks about his inner state, he talks about endless internal disruptions. It’s so obvious ‐ and it’s we musicians who must emphasize this so much, because it’s a portrait of his inner doubts.26:18  This is a very expressive paint, which is absolutely necessary to complete his portrait. 26:36 


At this point, the general narrative of his general state ends, the backbone of his character ‐ wide, broad. In the Russian language we have a name for this sudden change in spirit or break in mood - it trans‐literates as “avralney” - literally the act of a person assuming the characteristics of an emergency - all hands on deck for example; it is typical for a Russian person to quickly rethink himself, to regather, to go and constantly change course, for one reason or another. That is, there is no consistency here. He, again, ironically tells us about his internal problems. But the general narrative of his general state, the general character traits that were before, begins to move into details in the middle part of the “Walk”.
When he delves into the details of his inner world, we see that he breaks and separates each chord into its component intonations.

What do we have here? 27:56
That is, from its general state, we move into a more intimate, deeper view after the introduction. Now let us try to connect these two materials. 28:18 And one more very interesting detail, suddenly appearing is a chromaticity in the middle voice.
28:51 What does this mean? This, again, is an ironic trait, to which he portrays his character of insecurity, stumbling. And, we can even guess, knowing his life path, knowing the negative sides that accompanied his life, a certain state of some drunkenness. 29:21 Then he encourages himself. 29:39 And the walk continues, the movement of his character continues as well. 29:47 And the last element appears, very interesting, when he stumbles on the spot.30:02


Here you can easily see the so‐called body language, and character is the character of a wonderful good‐ natured person who decides to undertake some specific movement. Well, let’s say, he decides here, takes himself in hand, and, remember, how Erofeev says: “I did not go, but got involved”, since my legs did not go. So here, Modest Petrovich remakes himself, apparently. On the one hand, it shows here the outer part of “Walking” ‐ the walk to the exhibition per se and, on the other hand, of course, it’s part of his wonderful, amazing, charming character. And ends with the first theme of “Promenade,” when he leaves here, he forces himself to go after certain doubts, 31:05 after the internal unpleasant and bitter reflections, which led to this turn of a minor 31:08; as obedience to the fate 31:13; drunken stamping from foot to foot 31:19; forcing himself 31:24; hurrying himself 31:28; with a shift, again, a strong beat which indicates a lack of character and uncontrollability
31:42 trampling on the spot, like a bear. And, finally, pulling himself together, “hands reaching down the legs and to the feet” 31:57 and proceeds on to the goal.

Here is such a wonderful, ironic, sad and at the same time funny, bitter and at the same time sweet, charming self‐portrait ‐ a charming “physiognomy” of our beloved and dear Modest Petrovich.



                                                                                                                                                                   Translated by Svetlana Harris and Todd A Harris

Part 2 “Gnome”

To fully and clearly comprehend the whole of this music we need to step back a bit from it   And focus our attention on human consciousness, to get inside the composer’s mind. This is the most important question to answer in order to understand the message behind, and the material content of, this musical work.…Consciousness…Human Consciousness, the conscious perception of time, of place or country and of people,  of human interaction and perception.

Today’s perception of and compassion for people whose DNA have made them dwarves or which folks of the middle 19th century termed Gnomes.  Unfurtunately, there exist many false preconceptions of dwarfs according to such vernacular as Disney cinema, cartoons, and fairy tales as well as many other mass media based misrepresentations which constitute our understanding of the 19th century’s portrayal of gnomes.  Or at least the essence of European thought at the time.  Our modern comprehension of dwarfs originally derived from the primitive views of early European culture.  Today’s  fairy tale culture portrays  dwarfs as cute, fanciful, agile, and heroic characters in caps, and sometimes as figurines with pompoms who engender positive emotions.

But 19th century Dwarfs are often portrayed as little people with supernatural abilities.  They freely go though  walls, cliffs, granite or material barriers.  They live underground.  And later I will explain why these concepts are important to our narrative.

The overly simplistic description of their nature is caricature rooted in traditional satire.  They are self-conscious, seemingly arrogant and overly serious, Focused on the goal of possessing certain objects, lacking in humor or grumpy.  This makes them objects of ridicule when they are placed among people of normal stature.  That is, the dwarf of the 19th century is a parody, a cartoon version of a person.  Above all they are short, presumably to facilitate their walking inside underground caves.  In addition, they possess superhuman abilities.

Since Mussorgsky was extremely adept at creating parodies and musical cartoons, , according to the memoirs of contemporaries, whenever he spontaneously improvised on all sorts of satirical and humorous themes, he made people laugh out loud.  So much so that Mussorgsky’s piano creations caused the public to fall down from laughing.  But the thing that is the most interesting is this :  as a true artist Mussorgsky did not just perform the parodies, he actually become their reincarnation.  It was his secret, his brilliance, his public influence.  Because of this, we are taken one step deeper towards the understanding of this distinctive musical miniature.

Mussorgsky doesn’t just play at the piano, he transforms himself.  Now we no longer see Modest Petrovich in front of us;  instead we see the troll, the nibelunga, gnome, sztverga, anyone, with all the grimaces.  Of course, when we have to do this, we should not overplay, it’s like bad actors, when they are said to be “overacting”.  But you can’t ignore those things which accent the presence of an actor in the author’s personality.

So the dwarf – as I have been describing it, is based on knowledge of European mythology and the image of that story as it came to Russia, – This is a perfect grounding for the humour , satire, and surreal talent of Mussorgsky.  In this play, Mussorgsky let his fantasy run wild in an ironic, sarcastic and humorous way.  And now I want to go straight to the text, so that together we look at the complete caricature,
and the sharp contrasts which define the appearance of the gnome. [4:14]

The dwarf appears suddenly, startling us, as dwarves often do in such tales, jumping out from under the ground. [4:28] 
Reaction.  [4:35] 
For sure, it’s all silly jumps, grimaces and more. [4:43]

A  very characteristic beginning, which can be attributed to the image of any gnome from any European country’s mythology.  Well, now, we’ll move on to the point where the image of the gnome transforms. And experiences amazing changes grounded in Russian soil.  Let’s see how all this information, collected from the middle of the 19th century, could be superimposed on the consciousness of the great poet, satirist and surrealist Mussorgsky.  Thinking about death – this is, in fact his fixation – memento-mori always was present, about the otherworldly inferno – which was quite fashionable at the time.

The parallel is obvious. Without thinking, all this mythology, once filtered thru the russian consciousness, leads us instinctively to this parallel, even if I don’t explicitly articulate it.  I think you’ve already guessed it.  Otherworldly characters, underground people, caves, underground worlds,surreal beings.  Who could  it be ? In the Russian mind it’s Gogol, Gogol, and once more Gogol.   Now we have arrived at the proper place and time for our journey, the time and place in terms of the consciousness of peoples, nationalities, countries, and the individual.

In the Russian consciousness of a man with both Mussorgsky’s mind and immense talent, all mythology would be about dwarfs filtered  through the prism of Gogol’s consciousness,   the consciousness of a Russian Goya, with all his world of horror.  Now we have the direct path I mentioned in my lectures many times.   These are Russian artists of the surrealist school -Gogol, Mussorgsky, in part Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Shostakovich, Erofeev.  Who we choose to include in this list depends on our personal ‘’taste’’,  Leskov and Sologub can be included here too.

In short, this surrealistic Russian direction is musical, literary and poetic.  These are certainly surrealists – psychologists with a strong orientation towards diabolical satire, quite talented in cosmic satire and irony realized thru surrealistic and mystical imagery .  Once you understand how Gogol had become established as an intrinsic part of Russian philosophical thought, this list of artists becomes an obvious choice, an obvious direction.  Unusual, unique.  This neither fully reflects Goya, nor Europe, nor all the surrealistic dwarfs and horrors I have enumerated, whether they be comic, or satirical.  It’s already pure Russian.  Once rooted in European soil, interestingly, it’s now Russian.

Therefore, when we get to the material that follows, this is obviously a music of satire, of mockery, where the image is seemingly no longer that of the European dwarf, but is now replaced by all manner of freaks, and mental ugliness, from Gogol’s writings .  Imps, russian imps.  A comprehensive picture of a folk-tale dwarf – in spirit, thought, and physical dimension.

Moving on to the next bars.  By 1868 Mussorgsky had already met Gogol.  It became obvious by this time that his artistry had been infused and injected in a positive way by Gogol’s creative force.  He had already written a significant part of the opera based on the plot of Gogol’s “Marriage” story.  By 1868 it had already been performed.  That means, 5 years before « Pictures » was composed, he was already compleatly immersed in Gogol’s world. He was quite ahead of his time, so when he was playing prepared scenes from the opera,  whether in small living room groups or in full public view, nobody understood the seriousness of his subject, finding it easier to view it as a matter of curiosity and frivolity.  Lets delve further into the text. [9:53]

We can see here The Nose, Sobakevich and others. All the characters are here. [10:08] Mussorgsky is playing the piano with great fury.  [10:14]

This presents us with a vivid image of Modest Petrovich.  It’s impossible for him not to be seen here !  Because of this, there is no way it can be played using classical technique, it would be ridiculous to falsely choose an aesthetic that fails to recognize the omnipresent spirit of the composer in his music.  Mussorgsky is present in every pianistic motion made by the body and hands. [10:51]

Especially here. [11:00]  Well, who else can slap on the keyboard with the whole palm?  Only Modest Petrovich of course, nobody else. No European would allow himself to do this, and the German school would only attack it nimbly.  Here we have something completely different, demanding of a different touch altogether. [11:15]

It is necessary, of course, to maintain the text a way that is true to the intent of Modest Petrovich. [11:20]   I  think here, in this tune, you can surely catch the famous intonations from the « Flea », It’s sarcasm, pure Mussorgsky’s sarcasm. [11:39]   Flea ( singing ), once more Flea.

Here concludes the formation of our image of the Gnome.  But further…there is a beginning…
Who is Gogol’s most terrifying dwarf ?  Towards what is our Russian consciousness going ?  Viy ! Viy and only Viy, it can be no one else.  « Raise my eyelids »  This narrative comes directly from the scary Russian dwarf himself. [12:32]

All the time, [12:43] we see him [12:46]  moving towards us.  I think that no one will doubt who we see before us.  Obviously ,it’s the satanic and terrifying Viy.

Now our fantasy is taking us to the next step, it is an infernal entity incredibly conveyed by simple, but very effective, trills and chromatic glissandos, By the way, nobody had done it like this before, nor has anyone done it like this in modern times.  Here we’re moving straight to Shostakovich, who really appreciated Mussorgsky,  because he is one of the few who understood his depth, in all it’s metaphysics.  Mussorgsky and Shostakovich are like relatives of each other.

So, [14:53] we have a phenomenal picture that is phenomenally short, it is the real inferno, yes, the very one which in fact was so fashionably adopted by the intelligentsia, the one which Dostoevsky so often used.  Consummation by the inferno’s fire.  [15:29]   And the chords become the chilling ice of death. [15:42]   Concluding with a diabolical, infernal passion.  He returns to the underground in the same way that he appreared.  In the last line, where he spirals into the soil, last line, Mussorgsky  asks us to play every note with extreme force. [16:07] He falls thru.

It is fantastic !  All the European world’s manifestations of Mephistopheles are fading away, all of them.  All infernos pale when compared to the Russian inferno, because they are unable to as effectively convey the force of the devil to us.  Even Liszt could not, in spite of all his beautiful knowledge of harmony, symphonic structure, and his endless technical wizardry, even with all this, put it together…Here, Mussorgsky’s talent, through a whole series of philosophers and writers, whom I enumerated, closes in on Shostakovich and partly on Erofeev, too, who, in an icy horror, created his own visions of Russian passions-nothing like that exists in anyone’s musical literature, nor in the concepts of written literature – there is nothing like this in the world.

« Dwarf ». [17:22] 
Here is the truly infernal picture, where we really need to present both the satire, and the humor embodied by Mussorgsky’s sitting at the piano, and delve depper into the surreal pathology, psyche, and the sacred mentality of russian people:  Which, in music, has yet to be spoken of.
This is the legacy of Mussorgsky which we must understand to fully comprehend the man and appreciate his music.  It will probably be 200 years before we begin to understand the amazing psychology of this completely crazy genius , just as only now are people beginning to understand that of Dostoevsky’s.

Next, Mussorgsky is coming to his senses.  Now we can once again see our charming Modest Petrovich, who is returning back to his body, his soul, his normal self.  As he said, each time the theme  « Promenade » appears, it is the physiognomy of Modest Petrovich himself as the narrator.  He appears in between the most dramatc points, in some ways moderating the drama and preparing us for the next piece, next Picture, which is nothing more than his reincarnation, his mental state and absolutely fantastic psychological dives into the hidden places of the psyche of the Russian man.
So presented with this horror, how does Modest Petrovich react ?  He writes : moderato comodo assai e con delicatezza.   That means : very discreet, discreetly quiet and delicate.   And he is drawing his inner self… we’ll see what he does next. [22:29]

Completely incredible reaction !   It’s delicate, floating Modest Petrovich.  Obviously smiling and floating in space. [23:04]

This three chords can represent nothing else but a bright smile [23:12] with some coquetry.  There is nothing missing, everything is included.  Everything that goes with genius – all encompassing.

So, what is this all about ? It’s something that appeals to our modern sensibilities as people.  Suspended in air… Smiling…What is the modern jargon for it?  How it can be indicated ? Swing.  Yes… Russian swing of the second part of 19 century. Sounds wild, doesn’t it ?  When viewed from a purely historical perspective.  But this is precisely what makes Modest Petrovich seem so modern, so appealing to us as listeners.  It will be always something new.  It’s already part of Earth’s atmosphere, the atmosphere of our life.   It’s forever.  Nowadays it’s called swing but in Mussorgsky time it was called enlightenment, floating and soaring.  Now it’s swing, probably in 1000 years it will be called something else more appropriate to the future time.  But it will always embody that which appeals to the pleasantries of the human condition.
By the way, this piece has that quality which makes it so appealing to jazz performers – they go crazy for it.  They don’t interpret it the way that classical musicians do, but through it’s soul the music communicates something elemental to the human condition that is visceral.   They can feel this swing intuitively because of their formal jazz training.  Jazz performers quickly understand it because they feel it in their gut.  For sure, it’s so basic that feeling its essence demands no lengthy evaluation or analysis.  Although to understand it the way that Russians understand it, you need to be Russian –  to inhabit the Russian soul – in fact you may even only fully understand it in the way we are referring to the notion of « understanding »  here if you are a Russian psychologist, writer, or historian.  But the feelings engendered here are intuitive to everyone.  It may take some time for classical musicians to fully understand at the gut level all that the practitioners of the pop and jazz idioms have to offer Musssorsky and vice versa.   Shame, shame and more shame on those classically trained musicians that ignore that side of Mussorsky.

These works are interesting pieces of a dynamic time puzzle – together they form intuitive, ingenious imagery, that is, timely and fantastical.  Descending from the world of Russian poverty,  salons of progressive half novelists, half musicians, and just plain smart and talented people from the streets, we have here inherited through a time portal something forward looking and trending worldwide only now – a few tacts becoming a prognosticator of the swing movement. [26:16]

So, like that, floating in space, slowing down, softly swinging we are moving into Italy, into Old Castle – we will see you in the next episode.

Thank you very much !
                                                                                                        Translated by ZJanna Melnichuk,  Svetlana Harris and Todd A Harris

Part 3 “Il Vecchio Castello”

There is a social trend that haunts classical music, especially over the last hundred years. This has caused classical music to become a sort of isolated art meant for a particular audience. Many people eschew the music – they feel it is without life and seemingly remote from their everyday experience and understanding. Thus they find it boring.

In fact, by its nature, it is impossible for classical music to be boring. This is because, like any music, classical music emanates from the soul of the composer who wrote it.
Secondly, we consider classical music to be the best and most valuable the essence of what is beautiful. Specifically, it represents the essence of beauty within mankind’s soul, and also within his art.
So we can perhaps account for why classical music is sometimes …or more accurately stated, why for many years now, classical music has become largely disconnected from the culture of the music-loving masses. But this explanation does not suffice – perhaps it is our fault as musicians who inartfully fail to communicate the soul of the composer, who do not fully comprehend the content, and who do not properly interpret the psychological context of the music. We are not well versed in making more approachable the very complex nature of, if you will, the sounds of mankind’s inner self.
The work we examine today is often the victim of just such an improper reading. Recall that in the previous two episodes of our “Pictures” series, we discussed the difficulty of portraying “Walking” in the sense of it being part of a man’s self-portrait, of its revealing the hidden psychological details within.
But, at least there were no structural problems in the first piece, which represented the venue for the exhibition where the pictures hung, which also inspired Mussorgsky’ creative work – the “Gnome” – this work was too complicated to give a simple explanation of its content as it spoke of the subconscious and various sorts of hidden psychological spaces within the human psyche.
Therefore, of course, it was also very difficult to reveal and to convey the understanding of that revelation to the listening public. But, once again, at least the structure of the form in both the the first and second cases was not severely tested. Winthin the “Castle”, which we will now consider together as the object of our study, there is a strange twist to the story.
Since the picture is called “Il Vecchio Castello”, or “The Old Castle”, by Hartmann, Modest Petrovich birthed completely novel connections in his mind and soul which were not directly derivative of the picture’s title. The name is misleading when attempting to use it as a direct instruction for playing the piece.
We, the performers – must attack it head-first – this approach will primally provide a two dimensional understanding of the musical intentions the composer using only biographical details and the title itself to provide the starting point for our analysis. This gives us our first glimpse of music’s basic inspirational impulse without necessarily delving into the hidden roots of its context. And this provides us a perfect opportunity to depart from the idea of pure composition.
Beginning with the notion that many, or even most, large serious works have, over the centuries, been misinterpreted. And people who know only notes and motives have an incomplete understanding of what the music is about and how to bring its true meaning to the audience.
So, what did Mussorgsky see in this picture? A wonderful sketch of an ancient Italian castle. Thus he literally named his musical picture “Old Castle” without any change to the original title of the pictures – this was the same in every case for all the pictures. But, unfortunately, the name does not tell us anything. You can not play stone. The old castle did not natively inspire anything in the souls of the performers, except to introduce the image of an old worn-out stone.

I understand how the Castle’s physical geometry has provided the whole world’s interpretation with a false narrative. But to be clear this mistake is inexcusable, and making it speaks to the unprofessional superficiality of those choosing that narrative. Unfortunately this includes practitioners of my own profession, much to my shame. That no one bothered to think about the what of the why … why is there such a strong expressiveness, sadness ? And what is built into this music?

And what gave birth to the image of this neglected old stone in Mussorgsky’s heart ? In principle, it’s not hard to guess that if a person thinks about the past, he thinks about life too. About life in that this castle, about the time which was, about the country from which the thought of this work was inspired! It means that this is Italy! It means that there is life within! It means that we must imagine what was in this castle, and not play only about the stone!

In this castle there was a beautiful life that Modest Petrovich presented and In which he described and which he lamented. His visit to Hartmann’s exhibition was associated with very tragic circumstances. His friend died unexpectedly-a young, handsome man, in the prime of his life. Mussorgsky is shocked. Mussorgsky himself is quite sensitive to the notion of death and the mortality of man. Hugely shocked and shaken. Naturally, every thought in every picture centers on life and death. And how we could miss this for a hundred and forty years – Just does not enter my brain, does not enter into my mind. This speaks of the total mental and psychological retardation of the whole musicians’ workshop! To which I belong, also. I emphasize this. I do not distance myself from this.

All these mistakes were made by the members of our profession, during one hundred and fifty years of active concertizing, and I have also made such mistakes.
So, let’s analyze what happened.  What is happening in this music, and what was Modest Petrovich thinking.  [9:10]

A strange florid melody, isn’t it? There is something Moorish, southern. It curls like a snake. There is Arab, Greek, and South Italian influences. This appears only in the lower voice.
Let’s move on to the upper voice. [9:50]  It seems that these are links in one chain. And they are the links of one chain. Only this chain, which took root from the seed that fell in the soul to Modest-Petrovich, is singly voiced. Modest Petrovich transforms it into a polyphonic one. And these links are synchronized – sounding together.

So what is it that the composer asks of us, as always, in Italian. Andantino molto cantabile e con dolorе Hence, unhurriedly. And Andantino is a little faster than Andante – i.e. faster than a regular walking speed. Very lyrical. And With pain. With Pain. So, something very aching. About what was lost. About that which was once alive. Where could this warm southern chain come from [11:24] with a clearly dancing rhythm that is emphasized by the appearing in the bass [11:40]  We are closer.
The upper voice… [11:52]

Italian castle. Modest Petrovich thinks about Italy and, naturally, in his mind, he immediately begins playing Italian music. Modest Petrovich was a nationalistic artist who appreciated native born music – as I always emphasize he felt in his soul a connection to the folk music of the people as played in Italy – and he chose here to use one of the most popular themes – the tarantella. Let’s remember how it sounds. [12:32]

The ornate part continues, next … [12:52]
And then the variations …   This is the kind of music played in this castle, when it was alive, when there was life, when they danced there, when they lived there, when there were ladies and gentlemen, when there were beautiful seniors and senoritas And this, of course, was seen by Modest Petrovich, with his remarkable sadness and Russian nostalgia, refracted by the lens of the circumstances he lived through.

This southern Mediterranean music, which, of course, was influenced by and bears flavors of, Greek, Moorish, and African cultures … In Naples it wouldn’t have reached such geographic extents. This music was created and birthed from the soul of Modest Petrovich. But Modest Petrovich, of course, did not translate the notes literally.

However, Modest Petrovich never forgot the people and their music. Where was he able to hear this music ? Well, of course, there was some music remembered and shared by wandering musicians who hear the music in their everyday experiences. And where could these musicians be found ? In the restaurant where he spent most of his time. There was just such a restaurant as this – “Maloyaroslavets”, in which Modest Petrovich frequented. This restaurant opened in Petersburg in 1870.

This coincided with the time that Mussorgsky matured as a creative artist. In this Petersburg restaurant, people were steeped in nationalism. I must explain that in St. Petersburg at that time, a restaurant with Russian cuisine was a rarity. All the restaurants were French, German, whatever … Swiss – But the restaurant served Russian cuisine, and it was a place where you could experience feeling like a Russian, and share in its taste …side of mutton with buckwheat porridge. This piece coincided with the period around 1870.

There was such a restaurant “Maloyaroslavets” – very famous. Many contemporaries of Mussorgsky recall that, of course, he, unfortunately, spent too much time there. And, at the time St Petersburg novelists ironically called such drinking behavior a pastime and the intelligentsia coined a verb for such times – literally it means to be “congac-ing” – the partaking of the sweet libation regularly. It’s quite obvious that in such a place there were very many … a lot of stray musicians, there were good orchestras. We will later touch upon in detail….why are we speaking of this in such detail?

Since in subsequent pieces we will trace the connection with music that could … contain harmonic combinations that a person could hear only in such a place. One could infer this source by the harmonic structure, by the combination of harmonies, and by what kind of people played that kind of music: gypsy orchestras …. so the roots of this music can be easily traced. That’s Interesting. Surely, these were some visiting artists … Probably some Italian troupe of traveling musicians who played there.

I am absolutely sure that this was live music touching the soul of Mussorgsky. It is not based in musical literature which he could examine in local archives, or hear them as part of an opera….no this music is most like from the street since the music is very simple. And it is clear how it is transformed in the soul of Mussorgsky. The Mediterranean sun of Africa radiates into St.Petersburg, cools, passes through the consciousness of this remarkable Russian man, is refracted and becomes a nostalgic romance with almost a Gypsy style Such a fantastic metamorphosis. We are definitely not playing an old stone.

And now we understand what pace or tempo we must choose and why we are choosing it – to avoid making the mistake we made at the beginning. All, probably, were confused by the choice of andantino, yes? .. And the musicians probably set the metronome on andante and got an incorrect pacing. Then from this point…we should not proceed from the 6/8 on which the instruction of Mussorgsky is based, but instead use a bipartite rhythm, just as the Neapolitans danced when they jumped with such music. [18:27]

Naturally, this music was filtered through sad circumstances and a depressed soul.
Of course, Mussorgsky brilliantly makes new memories, but through personal grief and thoughts of death, memento mori, the music now conveys but a shadow of the St. Petersburg tarantella.
Mussorgsky often cites “Faust”, which he hated, but quotes very often, and agrees with the thought “Use your life to live/or sleep Peacefully in a coffin.” In the Russian translation, this is the maxim of Goethe. Mussorgsky hated it, but agreed. He said: “It’s said very badly, but it’s truth.”

Of course, he thinks about it, ponders it…a great deal ! There is such a strong wave of sadness. Hartman died. Modest Petrovich found himself unhappy with his cramped circumstances of life. He himself is shocked, because the once life-filled old castle has been portrayed in the picture as a mere mossy stone. You can imagine how much all of this inspired melancholic thoughts.

Therefore, after passing through the dense layer of our consciousness, music becomes very clarified and easy to understand. And we are no longer mistaken in anything: neither in pace, nor in content, nor in intonations.

Do not be embarrassed by the fact that the great composer raised music directly from the street. He elevated flowers, and drew beauty straight from the mud. But, in fact, there is no dirt. Remember Toulouse-Lautrec, remember all the other Montmartre artists, and all the wonderful artists in general. The artist finds beauty and the gold intrinsic of beauty everywhere, because it’s in his soul regardless of where he is located. Therefore, whether it’s a restaurant, or a brothel … whatever it is – a real, pure artist, with a pure soul , a pure warm heart will always find the spark of eternal beauty everywhere. Therefore, through the St. Petersburg restaurant, through lonely nights one-on-one with a bottle of cognac and his restaurant music, through a great soul, and a great heart, we get wonderful music.

I would also like to say that, of course, this approach very strongly divides creative people into two opposing, possibly irreconcilable, camps. Thus, it is quite clear why Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff hated Mussorgsky. They just didn’t accept him. For them it was vulgar. Every other letter, when Tchaikovsky refers to Mussorgsky, he describes him as vulgar, disgusting, muck, vulgarity.

Well, yes – they were members of high society… they were the parlor singers of the grand living rooms … And Mussorgsky was a tavern singer, of the street. And I understand very well why Shostakovich so fell in love with Mussorgsky – because it was very close to his soul too. I must say that speaking for myself, about my own experience, then for the greater part of my life, I spent time with guests of high society in their living rooms. It was very close to me, much closer. But, I found that with age I became less tolerant of that life…I tolerated it but now I see things from a broader perspective.
And I must say that it is now those artists who come from the people – they are closer and more precious to me. As this view is deeper, more comprehensive, and connects with the roots of humanity, its birth and death, rather than to the refined status of some people.

Let’s go through the text, as we usually do, in order to see together how the music of the tarantella is ingeniously transformed into the cruel romance of Modest Petrovich. Or, as we call it today in the modern world – a ballad. [23:45]

That is, we see here the second part of the trantella.  And the first part – he just inverts it, and turns it into a beautiful melody. [24:03] Great!

The tambourine does not turn into a mere act of jumping. Dancing happy drunkards or not even necessarily a drunkard, but instead it can be from an Italian wedding, or from anything you like.
So Where does the tarantella come from? Because at many functions, the tarantella is danced. And the tarantella always appears in the form of limericks: one verse, then a second verse, then the third verse, and the fourth verse – the longer the song created, the greater the number of verses in the song, there will also be more there will be more rhyming, as in Russian they say – musical cycles. These change from a minor to a major, sometimes leaving chords which….We will see this throughout the text.

And so Modest Petrovich utilizes the couplet form. Therefore, I mentioned the word “ballad” -it is a story, it’s his story.
So, the tambourine [25:21] turns into a pulsation of time. This memento mori reminds us of the transience of life – on the onehand. On the other hand, it sounds like a disturbing alarm, like a pulse of the heart, which can break in any second. Makes it so stressful. ! It stresses us at a subconscious level, like in real life. – (An empty fifth interval is added to the middle voice (26:00 is always … A fifth represents is a fear of emptiness.) Clean, empty Interval. With a groan! [26:16] Already through two voices we hear the whole pulse (26:20) of life, the entire pulsation of our presence on this planet. And the middle voice cries and groans, and, looking at the castle, speaks of the moans of ghosts that might also be there.

That’s how his genius deals with two sounds [26:47]
Modest Petrovich placed this melody a bit later in the upper voice, because his circle of friends worried that that he was being a bit boring and monotonous. Apparently, too, they did not understand what the music is about. It isn’t of course, at all monotonous. It’s possible the music … can still have the excess ornamentation removed. ((In case someone found it superfluous. And yet Modest Petrovich through his intuition, his genius, instantly creates such motion, and such tension that it will never become boring. Well, I hoped that here he [27:42] with these two notes added the figure of a troubadour who could, there … somewhere hi s spirit is hovering … And Modest Petrovich, being a talkative man, utilizing such simple materials, added the troubadour. [27:55]
So, the second verse. Stunning absolutely harmonic moves [28:02] !

Touches the soul to such a degree! Of course, he borrows it from the guitar. Here our golden, wonderful Modest Petrovich gives a little glimpse of himself and flies us geographically to Spain. Because these chords are typical for the Spanish guitar. And thus, when I wrote humorously about my work for my friends, that sometimes geographically, through the enrichment of music with certain harmonies, Modest Petrovich disappears from Italy and goes to Spain. Even to the south of Spain, to some Alhambra .. [28:58] Such material is for jazz, for modern pop music, ballads. Anyone may borrow it. It isn’t copyrighted !

So, the next verse. What is Modest Petrovich doing in this section ? Beginning with complete emptiness, corpses, stone and graves, he gradually adds more life to each verse. Now let’s see what what happened there, and what the apparition was. He imagined the Dance rhythm would not disappear, all along he is [29:48] asking for these little slurs.

It’s amazing how the musicians were clueless about the danceable nature of the music, that it should jump, bounce… that it should be danceable that it should jump, bounce … However, that went largely unnoticed by everyone. That is, here we notice dance elements that, after the first two verses in which he just cried, illustrate for us life in old castle 500 years ago. [30:06] And each time, every phrase ends with a groan and …Crying, because everything is gone, everything is gone, everything is gone!

He was very sensitive to this topic. In other words, what happened with Hartmann at this exhibition deeply affected him. We know this because he, if we follow his biographical information, Modest Petrovich, was incredibly bitter about life and death afterwards. In particular, he absolutely did not recognize the humanistic idea of Tolstoy, which I, by the way, often believe as many others do – that a person does not die, but remains alive with us through our consciousness. He rejected it. He rejected it, and even his direct quotes were preserved. He said that: “Don’t console me ! This is not reality , it’s cuckoo ! – said Mussorgsky. Because he who dies never returns. Here it is polyphonic. From a single [31:35] simple dance melody. There is a polyphonic work Fourth verse.

Not only did he show that there was dancing there, the seigneurs and senioritas were rejoicing there, there were fans, there was courtship … And now he just goes on to the romance, to the story of love. [32:18] This chain of chords – he borrows from the major part of the tarantella. If you forget, I’ll remind you. [32:33] When the dance becomes hot, and when the chords hang, before the partners come together Here it is …[32:55]  – That’s how it transforms within … the soul of Modest Petrovich. Ah! ..Suspended (33:05)

So, what is next? And further – musicians interpret [33:14]  such chromaticisms unambiguously. When we hear such a chromatic movement within a certain harmonic treatment, it is always a signal of sensuality. That is, it is already open sexuality, [33:27] . Sensation. (With a song: “Everything has passed away,” “And it passed away.” (33:40

And we go further forward with the pulse of time [33:48] The sound of the trumpet! (33:50) Modest Petrovich adds life! (33:55 8 Passion … (33:04). He already sees this life that was here. Everything has already almost become reborn, and! … (33:14) Breaks off abruptly The idea is left unfinished. It’s all over. The dance is falling apart. That’s what we have left of people. (34:35) Some bones and their graves. The last verse. (34:40 -34:46) So, what is it in the language of Mussorgsky? Not only is it in the language of Mussorgsky. It is in the language of Liszt, in the language of Shostakovich, in the language of all clever composers. What we hear in the middle voice is the chimera of death. Listen carefully![34:57] Usually the theme is given to a bassoon … the Bassoon often plays us death, or some kind of combination of wind instruments that mimic this very well.

It’s a chimera of death. [35:17] She is in the last stage. And Modest Petrovich specifically asks in the last verse once again espressivo – expressively. He’s emphasizing it. Well, if the composers were kinder to us, they would just paint all of this – it would be easier but it would not help the foolish.
[35:39] – So that’s it. (35:48) Dead. The last breath. (35:50) It’s like an epitaph in the language of Mussorgsky And the last cry: “Farewell!”(35:59) Farewell, forgive, gone, everything will pass, life has passed, love has passed! .. There are only bones and decay ! That’s the whole of its content.

Many thanks.

[36:13 – 39:36]
                                                                              Translated by Svetlana Harris,  Irina Wayne Williams and Todd A Harris

Part 4 “Tuileries”

We have heard two very dark and dramatic pieces: Gnome, which offers us unpleasant features of the Russian subconscious, Russian dwarfs, and terrifying Russian mythology; and then the very sad, piercing “Old Castle”.
Now, Mussorgsky superbly changes mood to that of a very energetic personal storytelling, in which he appears at once as both presenter and observer. After offering one version of his “Id”, if you will, via two dramatic and heavy mood-pieces, he now writes us a very cheerful view of his “inner self”. We know that this idea of self-portraiture looms through the “Pictures”, as the composer’s own picture becomes gradually revealed in all its variations. And thus becomes all encompassing in scope…

To view this whole portrait of Mussorgsky; we must cut out everything extraneous and distracting…. (Modern technology allows us to do this at home) in order to allow ourselves to listen carefully, appreciating all the different aspects Modest Petrovich has to offer of himself, and to hear how it reveals the different aspects of his nature. This will be of interest to anyone who understands our journey into the psyche, and who appreciates the musical depth of this wonderful composer. With an interesting simplicity, he reveals to us his inner drive, the motivational part of his character, as strongly as he does its dramatic and its lyrical aspects. 

Once again, he offers an incredibly instinctual view of his subconscious through a novel but simple two-voice progression – I am left speechless in trying to describe the amazing foresight of his character; he anticipates elements of later 20th century music, which we associate, with the typical progressions of bass guitar in rock music. This is Deep Purple, it’s Led Zeppelin, the great rock bands that fascinated their listeners (and continue to be fascinating through their recordings) with their wonderful drive, and their power, deeply rooted in the powerful energy of street life. Here, in the music of the “Pictures”, we find the same thing, rock and roll. Please pay attention to the progression in this bass line. [3:11]  
The progression of this line completely typifies that of a bass guitar’s played by any leading group today. Look how the bass goes.  [3:32]
​What could be better? That is what characterizes the incredible simplicity of, the underpinning “root” strength, if you will, since another word does not come to mind, of what that connects it to the soil. And so this illustrates one of the remarkable traits of Modest Petrovich’s character –he is able to pick himself up after a dramatic, an acutely dramatic beginning.
So, let’s play the whole bridge. This makes obvious the resilient part of the character of Modest Petrovich, which allowed him to endure all the hardships of a life, which, unfortunately, was full of all kinds of them. [4:28] And now we come to the wonderful, bright piece, “Tuileries”, where Modest Petrovich shows his amazing ability to draw with music.
Besides drawing with music, he creates cinematographic images that he envisioned in his mind. And the images actually go beyond mere cinematography, because cinematography does not give us a sense of temperature, or an actual sense of air. Now we are taking the first steps towards realizing 3D cinematography; but in any case only thru great music, such as this music is it possible to produce the rich associations, cinematographic images, and to combine them with those associations that awaken in our physiology purely physiological reflexes, reactions to the temperature, to some pleasant external stimuli…
This is done by music only. And, here is an absolutely extraordinary subtle miniature, where everything is so subtle – how difficult this piece is – it is so subtly painted, that the slightest change in the sonority and weight of just one tone, can change the whole character, and give the wrong portrayal. This is an extremely difficult task for interpreters, and I think that past interpreters did not even try to approach it this way. Let’s try to look – as we usually do – step-by-step, measure by measure (fortunately, there are not many measures in this piece). Let’s see what Modest Petrovich is talking about here. There were simply a lot of children on this picture by Hartmann.

This picture is not preserved, but, according to the memoirs of contemporaries, there were many running children in the garden. That is all, nothing more. So to learn about this picture, we have nothing but this music to rely upon. With little information forthcoming from the outside, then, in principle, of course, the greatest information is provided by the truly magnificent musical text; assuming that we can correctly read musical text, no other information is necessary. Since we know how to read musical text, we may discover information that, perhaps, the creator of the music, himself, did not even consider.

Because, as Shostakovich wrote, even for him – a refined person and a good writer – it was difficult to describe and understand the roles his conscious vs. his subconscious played as participants in his creative process. Was it a fifty-fifty balance or was it tilted to favor the direction of one or the other? In many cases the composer creates a work, lives and passes, not knowing the full influence of his creation, the full breadth and depth of its conception, his picture’s content, if you will; because the talent of a composer is akin to his blood’s chemical composition.

And, just as blood’s analysis uses various sorts of chemical reactions, or microscopes to help us see the microcosm, so the macrocosm of a rich musical text can help us better understand quite a lot if we dive into the well of the creator’s psyche; we can even learn amazing knowledge – From the text itself.

So. [9:41]  Here is an obvious but slight touch of paint. This is quite obvious..[9:51]  The first note is slightly longer, it is slurred with the second note, which ends abruptly. And this is just what appears at a first glance …The fact is, that every musical tone, every tone ratio wakes up a huge number of associations, if the music has a very deep context. And, in no case does it lack inference, nor does it stand-alone.  

At first glance, we wonder about the musical depth of these two fairly primitive consonances, and what they will reveal when we finally fully open our eyes to them. That is, the full degree to which the well of time has led us to the depths of Slavic, Russian roots, is hard to imagine. And Modest Petrovich hardly thought about it. Apparently, it was just programmed in him – that is, he had an innate connection with the absolutely wild Russian pre-Christian roots. Well, let us take a look at it a little deeper. Hence, touching..[11:00]

The next measure. The run. Absolutely obvious. And it repeats itself. So, what is it? Touching and jogging. In today’s language, this is Salochki – a game of a tag. In the language of the mid-nineteenth century – it’s a Pyatnazhki, it is a tag. A little deeper. And we must remember that Modest Petrovich, after all, is a child of the eighteenth century, and not of the nineteenth one. Although the nineteenth century was his heyday, he was produced by the previous century. That is, although we are now almost in the middle of the 21-st century, our generation still makes us children of the 20-th century.

Similarly, we must look at each creator in art this way. What preceded him? For example, Pushkin is a child of the eighteenth century. He thinks like a man of the eighteenth century, and his mentality is that of a man of the eighteenth century, although his whole life fell in the nineteenth one. But, nevertheless, he was brought up in the eighteenth century. The same is true here. So, we go deeper into history and come to the same old game, of which Modest Petrovich probably thought when he wrote this piece – Goryelki. Now we are closer. We are closer to the roots. That is, he, of course, from his grandmothers and nannies … and in his childhood, probably, participated in this game, consisting of running.  

Goryelki is a pre-Christian game. This is a pure ritual of the wildest orgiastic celebrations of Kupala Day. Hopping over the bon fire … these are akin to such wild half-shaman spells …And from this, [13:11] it would seem, simple and innocent touching, leads to being tagged …

And what did was said when one was tagged ? They said Voda – in the first sense, who leads, who will “ burn”.  [13:24]  There are still many rhymes that could have served as lyrics to this chant. But it seems to me that it is….best characterized by the word “Voda, Voda”, [13:38] and the children run. “Run run go be the first to tag someone else !”

“But continued study of the harmonic progression reveals how events develop here …  [13:53] 
Strangely, these simple harmonies lead us into harmonies with wildly Slavonic roots.. [14:26] On the one hand, there is some mechanical movement which is typical of small children. They are small, and often their movements are mechanical. This, of course, is also picked up by Mussorgsky. But, on the other hand, here is this wild, mechanistic, and such savage vocal cooings which come from the most ancient cult Slavic rituals.[15:13] 
There are very, very ancient roots here. And, I repeat, we will never be able to tell whether Modest Petrovich was consciously thinking about this, or whether it was all genetically inherited through his blood. Yes, in the end, it does not matter. ​
The most important thing is that we, having gone thru the well of time, into this temporary abyss, through this music, through these simple consonances, have been transported into the cosmos of pre-Christian Slavs. This is absolutely amazing. It is amazing, it is extraordinary.

Well, let’s go further …  [16:00] with our game Goryelki-Pyatnazhki.
Voices run around, imitating the direction of the running children. [16:12]
One runs in one direction.. [16:16]
And another voice shows us a run in an opposite way. . [16:19]
Converging again, as if to say, “Vodi, lead us”. There is an awesome sound effect here. The combination of just two bars, look…[16:28] 
Kids are running in one plain. And in another one. [16:34]  ”Voda!” – The voice is heard from a completely different distant point. That is, someone escaped – this is shown in music by such simple methods, creating an acoustically geographic effect.
We see the distance, look.  [16:53]
From the distance the child’s voice shouts, “I am here!” And the rest run to him.  [17:06]
Incredibly simple and amazingly effective. At one time …
This is not the first children’s musical sketch made by Modest Petrovich. He became famous already when he created a small vocal cycle called “Children’s”. All was devoted to children. Seems there are seven songs in here, if I am not mistaken.
Liszt saw these songs and was completely amazed. After that, he dreamed of meeting Mussorgsky. Unfortunately, Mussorgsky did not come to this meeting, although he was expected to and Liszt waited for him with no result. But either his work did not allow him to make time for the visit, the rather disgusting and difficult work preventing it; equally probable was that he deliberately avoided this meeting, since his clearly anti-Western leanings would make it unlikely that he would interrupt his job solely for the purpose of meeting with the popular musician Liszt, despite the temptation of doing so. As usual, he went his own way. And, I believe it is likely that he just did not want to meet with him. So Liszt was awed by the imagery of “Children’s”, so much so that he wished to dedicate a piece to Mussorgsky right away…And when Mussorgsky learned of this reaction to his work, his very childish response to the matter was characteristic of a naive child genius. He said:” I wonder, what useful things could Liszt find in there for himself? “Because, in general, children are trivialities, but, they ARE Russian trivialities! That is, since it was natural for him to express everything through music, including the fact that, although the kids are all the same, he nevertheless still expresses the nationality of the toddlers, even though we colloquially call small children bugs. So as a subtle artist, his outlook was naturally broadened by his inherently deep understanding of things. Although to us, his remark is absolutely striking. His deep feelings are subtly transmitted all through his music.
​So, We part with the children,  [19:42]  when someone runs away, after tagging a new person and calling out, Voda, or “burning.” Then the grand pause. And the middle part begins.
The middle part is always a small intermezzo. [20:02]
Here, the touching or tagging has been made, and the game is put aside. We clearly see a small romance. 5 As we know, the game Goryelki is played by pairings: a boy-girl, a boy-girl, a boy-girl. And, thus comes the goal…Because later, adults began to play this game too. And they thus chose their fiancée, got acquainted … Well, the kids just talked the same way – boys and girls. And here it is quite obvious that there is a little romance between the kids. [20:49]
I want to tell you that everything is fine here … Here, let’s say … [20:58] this is … 6/16 notes here.
​If we play it [21:09]  a little denser, then it will be a run with our feet.
And if you play very intimately and lightly,[21:18] you imbue the music with something of a childlike personality, sounding like transparent silver laughter.

This is so … Here, so here is the most serious and difficult task for the interpreter. This is the definition of “interpretation”. Interpretation is not just the act of people playing the same material differently – it is educated people playing music guided by their individual intuition – instinctually knowing, deep within the broad “factory” of the musician’s mind, what, in fact, the subject is all about….

And you can interpret it, just using the different colors … Give a little more gold, see where the jog is, and where the laughter is. But it is necessary to know what this is all about, what is at stake, and what each tone of this or that work says, one way or another. Naturally, we are talking about works with rich content. Other works are not so programmatic or defined in such a decorative way – this work already belongs to a completely different sort of music.

A Small change [22:22], modulation. And we immediately see coquetry. Children’s coquetry. The adult will not flirt like that. It is mechanistic, it is childish. The amazing look at children is not like looking at them as dolls, as unfortunately many adults do, but instead this is the look of the great artist and of a pure great heart; he treats children with understanding, knowing of their inner rich and completely different world. Only very few people – only genuine great philosophers – treat and understand children and respect their world in such a way.

We meet such a spirit, the great philosopher and great humanist Modest Petrovich, in his very music . [23:16]Two measures pass by. And everything changes [23:30] in the span of 4 notes.

Something very serious is happening here between toddlers. A little romance. Everything changes: the temperature changes, the colors change – there is more sun, the character changes, the situation changes, the narrative changes in a span of two bars! [24:01] In a span of four notes … and a change of harmony. We see the golden aura of this musical painting, an incredible tenderness with intimacy. It is amazing that such vivid colors can be be achieved by such simple means – it is a mystery for me. Although, there is nothing to analyze here – these are very simple harmonies. And there are only one, two, three, four, five, six chords in here.  

Magic. [24:44] And when all ends, the return of the previous material begins. That is, the whole romance lasted one and a half seconds.

And then it returned to the tag. [25:04]  And, with some tension. Running through.
And, quite obviously,  [25:15]  there are two voices.
Surely, of two toddlers, holding hands. [25:22]
And the third one runs from below. [25:25]
[25:28]  And then we revisit the first situation.
Again, this ancient gathering calls out. And we hear the last echo. [25:41]  Then everything disappear. Vision.

A few bars. A little … a little more than a minute of time. And such a masterpiece! Which, probably, is the most difficult piece of all “Pictures”. Then, try explaining to musicians, who, apart from their notes, do not see anything and do not hear that this is the most difficult piece.

And therein poses the real difficulty in explaining creativity – it does not consist of the incredible, striking tempos, or the richness of the texture, as musicians say – it just lies in the simplest of things. And here, where the character and mood of the narrative can change from one tone to the next, just one tone wrongly played a mere milligram heavier than the previous one can completely destroy the magic of the whole piece. One misinterpreted note!

This is the most transcendental, incredible difficulty presented to the interpreter – he must walk as a tightrope walker would when crossing over an abyss. And there are a small number of people who understand how to do that. 

​I am hopeful that, after our journey through “Pictures,” both listeners and musicians alike understand the true tasks of creativity, the true tasks of the art of making music, the real tasks of the interpreter. 

Many thanks! 

 [27:35] – Tuileries

                                                                                                                Translated by Svetlana Harris and Todd A Harris

Part 5 “Cattle”

This play it also belongs to a genre, where, generally, there can not be made a lot of mistakes with interpretation. One thing’s for certain, for that great creativity is required.

And besides, if in previous music pieces, playing kids were portraied in quite transparent watercolors, and generally, kids are there without particular psyhological penetrations, but just in a very delicate sketch, so here, in this play, there is required some psychological synthesis.

Bydło, if translated from Polish, as it was taken, for sure, from Polish language, Bydlo is cattle .But again, we have to take a look at where this material is originated. Knowingly, or perhaps, unknowingly, Modest Petrovich (it’s so hard to analyse mind and soul in subject of consciousness and unconsciousness ) anyway, is taking a look, geographically, to Poland.

Because we have bulls saddled into a very crooked cart [1.38] with such minor and sad theme. Where is this topic coming from? Again, there is root connection, folk connection as well as street and truth. It’s connection of a folk musician, who is originated from, not metaphorically but actually, from dirt, from peasants, from fairy tales, epics and taverns, – from everything, we might imply as folk living.

It’s typical 19th century pathetic folk song, or maybe even from an earlier period. Roots of this melody are going into old Belarusian pity folk song about a quail with sick legs. [2.51]

Probably someone from older generations still remembers our grandmas, who were quite old by that time, that they had memory of this song. And when our feet were tired from playing around, they sang us this song. So consciously or unconsciously, but definitely in mind, into Modest Petrovich’s soul sparked this sad Polish-Belarusian song.

It’s created a remarkable picture, where his thoughts about bulls pulling an ugly cart with crooked weels through the rugged terrain, they (thoughts) are, for sure, through true artist’s suspense transfering and extrapolating into our beastly fate, hard working fate, when we have to slave away till the end of our days.

But it was very relevant to Modest Petrovich, because, in comparisson to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, he didn’t get a big check so he could survive, dream and create!

He had to stay at his service office, where he was collecting all unbelivable and endless negative emotions, losing his life and his talent. Because of it all, his drunkenness and neglect, as well as ongoing depression, there are not so many works that he left us with. God didn’t give him « madame von Meck », but patrons are so crucial for brilliant, talented artists.

Therefore, for sure, his thoughts projected onto horrible fate of himself to slave away forever. So it’s happened just like that. He died of stroke, after he fell down due to a hypertensive attack, and had two more afer that, so he fell down on the carpet in his living room, tried to stand up, but fell down again and again. And then never stood up again…

For sure, all of it is in his music.
Because of it, we will not go through this play step by step, but I will play it in one piece.
You will understand and hear it for yourself.

«Bydło» [5.41]
9.07 It’s such an intresting and tragic folk sketch.
My advice to all interpreters, there is no way to perform it evenly, since this is rugged terrain, so it’s rugged terrain of life and it’s in place of this clumsy cart. From here we can jump onto Pushkin’s « cart of life ». In short, it’s continious psychology and philosophy and vice versa,the drama of life.

You’ve probably paid attention, when your cart was stuck, it was instructions from Mussorgsky. [9.46] He put little pauses to tell you where and when this cart has to fall down into the ditch. This should be performed with much character and expression.

Further, this cart is in different aspects: cart is getting closer, getting further, it’s here and there, and it’s passing by. And for sure we should extrapolate onto our life, in some way, onto our grave fate. Maybe not always bestial, but at least an uneasy human’s one.

After such a drama, our great moderator Modest Petrovich, and his face is exspressing it all, like never before. [10.38]
I will give you a tip at what it is, if you didn’t get it, actually it’s not to hard to guess : transparency and very high register.  [10. 58]
You can disagee with me, you would probably even smile, but it’s a teardrop.
Modest Petrovich teared up because of his thoughts.
I think, you’ll agree with me, when can see one more time how harmony is flowing through: [11.21] – clear intervals, pure state of levitating high.
For sure, it‘s such a pure and sad tear. [11.43]
And it is followed by thoughts I already was talking about. It sounds like as he is telling us : « our fate is so hard, as so hard our life is ». [12.02] Life is so hard, our fate is so hard, so hard…(12.31) How it’s told by one wonderful playwriter : « That’s enough… » [12.35]Smiling, laughing, [12.37]  trying to tell what’s coming up… [12.44]

And next, an absolutely.

                                                                                  Translated by ZJanna Melnichuk,  Svetlana Harris and Todd A Harris

Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks
Part 6 “Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks”

This is a purely imitative, character piece…an ideophone… And, here, of course, the performance depends only on the performer’s the sense of humor.

The sense of humor of Modest Petrovich is not questioned here, because so far, he has once again proved his thinking to be ahead of the accepted ideas and possibilities of his time. And once again it is timeless. And what is timeless ?

And the eternal role of the hen, yes … Through his amazing works he goes to the very roots, to the proverbial question about the order of chicken and the egg. And his art is extraordinary, because it comes primally from the earth’s core.

And here, in spite of the fact that the dance ..In Hartmann’s picture there were sketches to the ballet that had never been performed, where there should have been … a comic sketch, “The Ballet of Unhatched Chicks”, incorporating strange figures -half in the egg and the other half on chicken’s legs.

But Modest Petrovich gives here through musical technique a picture … a global chicken picture.

[1: 42] Here we have the interpreter’s touch already connected with the image of the pecking bird. Even through touch, he is sketching the figure, the physiology, and even the feelings of the pecking bird.

Let’s go quickly through this, step by step, without stopping, because everything here is very simple, everything here is too visible and does not require any deep analysis or psychological depth.. Just an exceptional sense of humor, and here we see the artist in full command of his instrument, because here we derive nothing but the pure feeling of great satisfaction and internal happiness. Both the performer and the audience.

And, of course, there is absolutely no need to be embarrassed by smiles from the interpreters, or the public, because it’s really very funny. So. [2:43] Mechanical movements are spontaneous, but with a certain mechanical rhythm typical of the very movem ent of a large number of birds. [2:57]

The Onomatopoeia, an ideophone, the use of sound to imitate nature, is extraordinary. Immediately what is heard … is not a tweet, it is cackling

After all, it is very to such an extent all …Recall that we talked about how it was quite natural for him to describe the nationality his toddlers, barely standing up on their feet. It’s the same here. In a certain way, he immediately portrays for us his chicken with his artistic, amazing flair, particularly the domesticated chickens-and no other. [3:30]

Running on chicken legs. With cackling. [3:39] Moreover, in addition, they are still young chicks ! Because the register he chooses portrays, in general, chickens, but they are adolescent chickens. I, as a person who grew up in nature, know all these gradations well, how chickens of all ages behave … how old the hens are. That is, here Modest Petrovich portrays for us the young chickens. Not newborns – but older ones, running.[4:18]

Here again, very funny … the right hand [4:25] depicts pecks and cackling [4 :31], and the lower voice portrays, of course chicken feet, as they run. [4:38]
You can not draw it better than that, as running through on chicken legs. That’s right. (4:48) 2 It’s so funny that it’s even difficult for me to play it. [4 :51]

Here, of course, is the cock’s voice. All of these chicken runs end with a crowing of a rooster. [5 :05]  A real rooster crowing with a very characteristic grace note, also part of the cock’s crowing sound.

Further, the middle part – an amazing exaggeration, when the lower voice…[5:28] There is simply no better way to depict a pecking hen. Listen to what the lower voice is doing. [5:35] Lower voice. [5:37] The lower voice is a slow chicken movement. It already becomes viscous, because the chickens are busily eating food. And the middle voice – short and jerky – should be played well defined and separate taking care that the pace not get carried away through the use of exaggerated tempo by interpreters, namely, because the character is what is important, independent of the tempos.

Altogether … A deep imagination and mastery of the imagery is present in this wonderful humorous picture.

So. [6 :11]
Here, the average voice remarkably shows mechanical pecks, as if chickens are mechanically and reflexively pecking food. [6 :22] This is an incredible artwork of the image.

And here, finally, at the top, we hear real unhatched chickens. That is, it is … not even clucking but less than a squeak, namely, that sound of a beak punching through a shell with a squeak. [6 :50]

As a wonderful artist he does not make the part a solo, which would be rather poor, instead he places it in the middle voice and assigns to the lower voice the mechanical work of the chickens pecking at their food.

And the effect is absolutely incredible. [7 :16] And we, of course, should perform this with great humor as much as possible, because there is simply no limit to the humorous expression in the sounds of this picture. [7 :33]

The next stage, when chicks appear to wobble on unstable legs, [7:46] plaintively squeaking, the lower voice behaves in general quite funnily. [7:55] The melody of the lower voice is definitely of the street.

This melody is of a hooligan. It’s that … this already connects this music with some jailhouse songs. And, of course, this could only come from a man who heard and knew well the street, and could provide an authentic melodic medium.

Listen to this. And you, of course, will hear what I’m talking about. [8:26] That is, we hear here some kind of poignant song. [8:32] It’s difficult enough to show everything so deeply, separately, and, at the same time, both separately and together, and in harmony. This is quite a large artistic and technical task. Again we are faced with the fact that the greatest difficulties arise precisely at the point when we need to create an artistic image, and we are instead faced with a call for virtuoso whirlwind.

This, I repeat, is the easiest – to create virtuoso whirlwinds. Which is so appreciated, unfortunately, by the superficial public. It is very easy. There is nothing easier. And to create an artistic image where everything is so subtle that it touches literally everything – this is the work of all life.

So. Completely of hooligans, convicts, yet at the same time gently feminine, a delicate and fragile picture of the weak and helpless chicks. [9:43] Return. [9:53]
The Rooster! ..[10:04]
We are moving away from the chicken coop. And are closing the picture.

Completely finished cinematic image. Surreal, unreal. What was required in this unrealistic name, the unrealistic solution of the surrealistic picture “The Ballet of Unhatched Chicks.”

This is pure surrealism. And thus, in the music of Mussorgsky he embodies not just the full incarnation, but also a font of fantastic beauty, and demonstrates the limitless abilities of the composer –a satirist, humorist, surrealist, realist, great national genius.

Many thanks!
Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks [11:01]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Translated by Svetlana Harris and Todd A Harris

Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle
Part 7 “Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle”

A very true to type piece where there is probably no need for lengthy explanations, permeating psychologically into the well of time, stratum of time, stratum of conscience. Something else is interesting here.

The composer’s, the musical work creator’s attitude towards his characters, first and foremost. And the way he creates this or that color that brings us to a certain place, not only in terms of emotions, but also in geographical sense, as well as historical. All this is unusually interesting. So. This piece has had different titles.

There are many layers here, and I would like to briefly clarify this.
So, in the German music edition I have, it’s called «Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle». This is one of the urtext, old titles, but it neither corresponds with nor does it explain the process of creation of this characteristic piece in the mosaic of Mussorgsky’s great canvas.

Mussorgsky had in his possession two small sketches by Gartman, portraits of two Jews, Polish Jews. One of them was a rich Jew in a fur hat – it was titled just like that. And the second one of a poor one, and it was titled «Poor Jid»

To start with, about this word, how did it come to be in the Russian vocabulary?
Well, first of all, it still has use in many European languages. Jud in English is Jew. In German, it’s Jude. And in many different languages, where «j» stands for the sound (zh) And in Russian it transformed into «jid», which is also characteristic. «J» is always pronounced like «zh» in Slavic languages.

This brings us… Same in Polish. this brings us to the oldest biblical sources, to the founders of 12 tribes of the Jewish people, to the name of Judah, or Judas. Etymology of this word is a very interesting one, because it transformed from a simple descriptor of a race into a derogatory term.
Unfortunately, it had to do with big problems in Russian conscience, with the problem of anti-Semitism, which unfortunately was so characteristic of the Russian peoples. And by the time Mussorgsky wrote this musical miniature, this became, in fact, an abusive word.

As it happened, during the 70s in the 18th century this word started to disappear from Russian dictionary becoming exclusively a curse word. In the 70s time frame.

The transformation of titles has to do with this fact.
If, like I said before, Gartman’s sketches were titled “The Rich Jew” and “The Poor Jid”, Mussorgsky, at first in his first draft, denoted them simply as “Two Jids, Rich and Poor”. Then, Stasov replaced it with «Two Jews, Rich and Poor». Then, the name of the rich Jew was added and just the collective name for the poor Jew.

So, as we can see, racial overtones, social racial overtones, unfortunately, got in even here, in the musical creation and it reflected in the title. Reflected in the transformation of this musical piece’s title.

It is very interesting to see Mussorgsky’s approach to this problem through his music. As you know, through music, we can follow the tiniest details of conscience and sub-conscience. Mussorgsky was a Russian nationalist and he did not try to hide this fact. He was linked with the Russian nationalists’ circle.
So, is it possible, theoretically, that a Russian nationalist is not an anti-Semite, because as it happens, unfortunately, it became a part of the physiology of a Russian person.

Even in someone who is of high breeding and intelligence, and high level of education, nevertheless, there still is some kind of rejection and tension at the physiological level, only at the mere mention of the word “Jew”». So deep are the roots of this racial distaste and racial rejection. It’s very interesting to see what level of moral purity the composer’s soul possesses. Whether there are any anti-Semitic roots in this music.

We know how music can create any images: grotesque or satirical. With a single forslag, stroke, with the talent Mussorgsky possessed, he could… Even unconsciously, his attitude regarding this issue would’ve shown.

But, to his honor, I must say, in this musical piece he is absolutely pure, which, in my eyes, lifts him to an unattainable height. And to the honor of Russian conscience, Russian national conscience… therefore, it’s quite possible for a certain Russian nationalism, as a cultural movement to exist without Nazi content, whereas one is often inseparable from the other.

No, Mussorgsky shows that this is possible, that you can be a passionate adherent of national culture and, at the same time, a cosmopolitan as far as racial issues are concerned. This is very interesting. We’ll again, step by step, measure by measure, look and see how pure and delicate Modest Petrovich is in presenting this sketch to us. What does he do?

He wanted to combine these two portraits into one and he did it splendidly. He placed these two Jews next to each other and made them metaphysically antagonistic. But antagonistic in terms of social origin, the eternal conflict of mankind, from the beginning of time to this day, this is a conflict between wealth and self-complacency, and poverty and abjection. That’s why in this piece he rises to the psychological heights of Dostoevsky, when we see an abject downtrodden man and we feel compassionate in every way.

And our souls shrink from depravity and stupidity that unfortunately almost always… those almost always are companions of self-satisfaction and wealth. The only thing he added here is a little bit of national character. Only as much as he had to. Gartman, a Jew, gave him two sketches of two Jews, and it all turned into this Jewish issue that, by the way, had bothered Mussorgsky for a long time.

But it bothered him as an artist because in many works of different composers, Western and Russian alike, in opera works, he observed emergence of the Jewish topic in music and he was always indignant about the fact that they were not exact, in a musical language, not exact at all, in portraying the Jewish national character.

In many of his letters he touched on this issue and was indignant that in some of the works he heard Jews looked like Catholics because they were not portrayed correctly in a musical sense. And here, it’s a creative problem for him which he solves brilliantly. Solves it in a very simple way.

Well, it’s common knowledge, I think, even for non-musicians, how easy it is to add some oriental color to music. They are additions of a minor third, an interval, [10.01] and it could be played in any minor scale and there will be oriental color added.

Let’s say we have the first minor third appearing for Modest Petrovich’s Jews,
[10.20] on the account of rising the forth scale-step. If we play with this interval, we can easily get ourselves into various geographical places and various cultures. For example… [10.49] It’s very easy to get to, [11.11] let’s say, Armenia, altering harmonics… These are typical Caucasian, right, harmonics.

Further on, if somewhere, let’s say, within one particular scale… this story unravels in B flat minor…[11.36] Each one of these harmonies within one scale gives us an indefinite oriental feeling. [11.50]After all… it already depends on… It’s, you know, like mixing a cocktail. Or, like putting together a chemical mixture, to get the national character just right. To get not to Armenia, not to Georgia, let’s say, not to the Caucasus Mountains not to the Caucasus peoples who all use, one way or another, in their musical harmonies this very minor third, minor scale combinations.

You can be perfectly scientific in depicting this or that nationality using national harmonies but still be imprecise in the creation of character, the nature of national character, national flavor
We know how incredible Mussorgsky was in this sense. Like in the children’s miniature I talked about how surprised he was that Liszt took note of his depiction of little children. In sense of them being not just little children, but also Russian children.

That is to say that for him it was a very important and sensitive issue as an artist, to be exact in the creation of character. Therefore, here he had to find that golden mean between these harmonies, when we definitely see before our eyes precisely Jewish intonations.

Moreover, Jewish intonations originating not from a Polish settlement, not from a Russian settlement… This is not a Russian Jew, not a metaphysical Jew, this is a Jew whose roots go back to the Middle East – thus, a Jew with roots – the very roots of the remarkable Jewish people. This is a very difficult image to portray, because in our conscience… there are a lot of images of parody, anger, wickedness.

All this, naturally, was in Mussorgsky’s conscience also. But he mixes his cocktail splendidly. In front of us, we see exactly the representative of the Jewish people. The very roots, without any admixture The wholesome, remarkable great people of the Middle East. And he concentrates, like I said before, on, well, Dostoevsky’s psychological social aspect of the antagonism of these two figures: rich and poor.

Let’s go through the text and see how he does it.
[14.47] So, at first we see the rich one. This is a very proper and an important arrival. Such a consonance of the interval into the cadence shows the foolishness and downright self-importance.[15.08] Then…
Due to this forslag we can see already a certain oriental element here right away. Even before the arrival of this oriental middle-eastern sadness which always appears through the minor thirds. [15.29]Here comes the first minor third, which already takes us to the East. But where? We can’t say yet. It can be any Arab country. Even North African. [15.51] Second minor third. But, just by itself it can lead us to Sayat-Nova, into Armenia. To some… duduk song three thousand years old, that we all love, all know, here also the eternity is speaking, but a different kind of eternity, Caucasian.

Then we see a self-important, slow-witted, domineering rich man. [16.27] Here he starts playing games with this interval. It disappears [16.37] and turns into a melodical one and then disappears again. And here it is, this little forslag, it is already not a characteristic of Caucuses, it is already not a characteristic of Armenians which would be always very tenderly supple and soft.
[17.00] But this hardness, it is already characteristic of Middle East and brings us to the national roots of this character, who, well, is materializing in front of us, described by very simple strokes. [17.16]

All these intervals are combined here, creating a very exact national coloring.
[17.34] That is to say we see a rhythmical affirmation of the Jewish character, we see a harmonical affirmation of the Jewish character, we see an artistic… A chemical composition with which the face of the Jew comes to life and we see how the genius of intuition makes no mistakes in the proportions. Just one unnecessary note, one unnecessary minor third, and we would already be flying out into a different nationality, into a different part of the planet and different culture.

So, we just saw The appearance of the rich Jew with all his characteristics and national traits And personality traits.

Then, the second portrait comes into sight. We could’ve expected some… if, again going back to that… if our artist weren’t such a pure spiritual real great artist, then, we would have seen the emergence of this oppressed little man, little man of Dostoevsky’s… If there were any anti-Semitic roots in Mussorgsky he would definitely create some fawning, something obsequious… Well, something… It’s quite easy to add something detestable, repulsively pathetic. But there is nothing like that here.

We only see in this poor Jew the humiliation of a small person that is expressed by very simple means. Because his character is just a little bit fragmented, he just looks a little different…[19.25] By this fragmentation, with one single note Mussorgsky shows the humiliation of a man, the fragility of a humiliated, poor man, that causes only extreme pity, extreme compassion in the face of this repulsive social discrimination, that mankind has lived with for God only knows how long, since the beginning of time, and cannot seem to get rid of it. And, of course, this is the image on which Mussorgsky, being a great artist, concentrates his attention. There is nothing humiliating about this little man, nothing. There is only a picture humiliating all of us, people. Because we are still allowing this ugliness, inequality between people. [20.24]

This southern color is added with incredible talent and genius. And it is added all in all due to the use of the pedal. Here, if we play this without using the pedal… [20.47] It feels dry, does it not? What’s missing here? Air and sun are missing here. We have a southern people here.

By the way, it needs to be said that elevating the image of the Jews to a metaphysical level, we, of course, already are being carried over… These are not Polish Jews from a settlement whom Gartman painted. No, we are being elevated to the sources, roots, like I said before. There, where the sun is very hot, that lives in the hearts of the great Jewish people. And thus, just adding the use of the pedal we have the aroma of the hot land, and the atmosphere, melted by sun, where this metaphysical encounter of two Jewish souls is happening. Now, I’m adding the pedal, and immediately sun and heat appears.
[21.55] Melted. Everything is melted by sun, everything is melted by heat. [22.08]

The intonations are really mournful. [22.17] We can feel the exhaustion of a poor man here. In no way some humble artificial attempts to cause pity. [22:39]
There is none here. Only the portraits.

And further, [22.47] a splendid passage through these harmonic minor thirds that we see puts us into the Jewish character of music right away. [23.03]

These harmonies cannot belong to any other people. In two measures, we are finding ourselves exactly in the geographical point of the narrative. [23.26]
Of course, all this happens on a cosmic scale, metaphysically. But exactly, as far as ethnicity goes, it’s there where the roots are.

And then we… Remarkable polyphony, where Mussorgsky very easily brings two characters into a conflict presenting to us this irreconcilable social tragedy of a small man and a “big” man, (in parenthesis). Since it is the case to this day that in our unfortunate society the amount of money is equal to the level of success, and, so to speak, commercial success.

And so, this is how Mussorgsky shows it. When the poor man is shown in high pitch, and the insolent moneybags is in low pitch. [24:22] And here are the sweltering intonations [25.00] of a dispirited person, [25.09] compared with the spiteful attitude of the opposite character represented with just one note.
Full of pain… And the triumph of the despicable disgusting selfishness.

That’s all there is to this sketch, but how much does it say. It has the psychologism of a true master of drama, from Shakespeare to Dostoevsky and the superb feel of a wonderful musician, who creates for us thanks to the precise additions of harmonic components, a perfectly true cosmic mixture, chemical cosmic mixture, where his characters live. All comes to life, all gains metaphysical proportions, and becomes a great universal work of art

Thank you very much!


Again, after this dramatic sketch, great sketch That took us To the Middle East…
We go back to Modest Petrovich, Who, music critics say, practically repeats it completely, without understanding what is really going on, in the second appearance, almost in the same hypostasis as the Promenade, like it was in the beginning.

This is what is going on. This is not just a repetition. This is our, the same one, Modest Petrovich with the same thoughts he had in the very beginning of this great epic canvas. Only he shows the change, how much stronger he is now emotionally going through the communion with the spirit of this beloved friend of his.

That is, everything that was monophonic in the beginning. [29.49] That which like we discussed, like we already found out, was characteristic of him as a person…
This 11/4, Russianness, his unpredictability, in part, the latitude, the daring of his character. But if there we had a leading man… what imitated the youthful single voice of the leading guy,
Then here, we see the whole… Modest Petrovich doubles this theme, we see the powerful sound of an organ that sings in his soul. That is, Modest Petrovich himself, but mightily strengthened from the inside, thanks to overcoming many phobias. Thanks to his wisdom and talent that allow him to overcome and overpower the death of a human being, to immortalize him, his remarkable dear friend, immortalize him in his immortal music. And so we see the high and powerful tune of a totally different character. [31.14] That is, a powerful basso… and basso always symbolizes… basso means base, basso is reliance, that is to say, he feels much more confident. [31.43] Such might! Indestructible might, of which in the beginning, in the first appearance of Modest Petrovich, we didn’t see even a glimmer. And in the developing of his character, there is already oceanic, cosmic power of the double basso. [32.13]

Here we have an absolutely different person in front of us, in spite of all the same continuing inner doubts. [32.39] Same exact drunkenness, if you remember. [32.54] But all the doubts, all this staggering become much shorter and take the position of standing firmly on two feet. [33.05] There is no more swaying in the part of the character that ratifies life.

Immediately he gets to the second… [33.19] to the second life-ratifying verse [33.26] and to the final tune, abandoning all doubts. [33.32] The sound of the trumpet symbolizes the transition to the final stage of the story of this great musical and literary canvas, epic Russian canvas. [34.04]

If it were up to me, I would’ve added here the pulsating trumpet or bugle that would symbolize the opening of the next piece.
On the one hand, we have the opening of The Marketplace at Limoges, which is a mass folk scene master of which, at that time already… a great master, a recognized master, unsurpassed master of which Modest Petrovich was already
having created already mass canvases… mass folk scene canvases…

The same is awaiting ahead of us: on the one hand, [34.39] and on the other hand, this bugle symbolizes the transition to a very active part of the finale that Modest Petrovich conducts very brilliantly and very masterfully. Interpreting the whole psychologism of ever changing Pictures into a continuous active virtuoso performance, which will lead to an explosion of faith to the happiness and future of Russia.

Such is the transformation of his physiognomy, his character. Such fortification is happening of his moral strength, his life strength, which he shows in the second presentation of the Promenade. So, this is not at all a mechanical repetition, not a composer’s trick for the sake of form, but the result of thoughtful psychological self-analysis, that shows us a transformation, a development,
The vital forces, the life forces, the potential… potential of the life force of this great man.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Translated by Fira Headrick

Part 8 “Limoges. The Market (The Great News)”

This is the second humoresque after the remarkable prior piece based on a chicken ballet.   It’s about human silliness.   Gossip, idle chatter, and an exhibition of simple, unrefined, somewhat unfiltered everyday humanity filtered through the lens of the vernacular.   If we were to liken it to a modern equivalent, the best analogy would be a snapshot of the social media, the Internet, ‐ a Limoges piece.  Here some gossip ensues, in which everyone discusses things, but no one really listens enough to any else’s words to really try to understand anyone or anything much beyond that of their own voice’s contribution to the total malaise of the dynamic, such as it is, which is truly the art of the gossipers.    Mutual Understanding is not nearly as important as the successful delivery of opinion.  And the primary goal for Modest Petrovich was to convey the essence of this nonsense. Here again he demonstrates his fantastic mastery of using music as a vehicle to convey ideas.    This is a real composer’s great gift.    And thank God that he succeeded in HIS quest to enlighten humanity through this special person ‐ That is, he stepped into the body and soul of a certain person ‐ Modest Petrovich, and expressed himself through him. Because it is a gift, of course, completely Divine, as we usually say in such cases, because we do not know how else to explain it.

So, what is going on here? It is necessary to determine very precisely where the storyline and its actors are being depicted, and where the action of the story is being placed. In the usual interpretations of this piece, as a rule, there is a doubling of nonsense, where we find that the interpreters are not able, as we have already encountered many times, to read the musical language, to understand its meanings. And the foundation that underpins this work – this picture of empty vessels is sketched or structured as one would a cartoon, like a parody  ‐  and only by understanding it, by understanding this musical language and identifying with it for what it is, as musical language, we can convey the absurdity of it all, the lack of actual interpersonal communication, the nonsense of empty words and then to be able to laugh at it.   Because at its heart it’s very funny, wonderfully done, and one just has to savor every little detail, where Mussorgsky shows his amazing mastery of parody, caricature, and humorous comedy.   But if you only scratch the surface, and do not read into it sufficiently, then chaos is just superimposed on nonsense and chaos, you get chaos in the square, and the performance looses its value, it devolves into a kind of virtuosic, compressed, densely incomprehensible work, like the fracas of a noisy woodpecker.   This, of course, is terrible. And in any case, I want to bring up this subject. I will now dwell a little, distracted, because we enter the final phase, the final phase of this great canvas, where I want to dwell a little more on one hand, on the skill, on the genius of Modest Petrovich, on the other hand ‐ on the meanings that open up with a deeper look in the musical texts.

3.32 So, as usual, we focus on what the composer wants to tell us through multiple data points.  We need to carefully, very carefully, repeatedly collect all the data, all the information, all possible identical narratives of the composers, because humoresques are a big part of compositions, of the world’s music in general  ‐  Something that is completely missing, unfortunately, in our concert halls, and what we completely have lost in today’s music. This provides us an opportunity to just laugh, to enjoy when composers laugh, when composers make very funny statements through music, when their notes glisten and shine with the polish of humor, and when, in general, the audience should be free to smile, to laugh, to revel in the unrestrained humorous comedy of the musical moment.  All this, like many ‐ many other qualities and feelings, are lost in classical music, in the performance of classical music. Music is just as rich as everything that we have in our beautiful human life and soul. But because of the narrow focus on what I would call “exactitude”‐ an over emphasis of detail over substance, which has come to dominate the thinking of performers over the past many years, there has been some incomprehensible decadent attitude towards classical music, bordering on the dogmatic, overly pseudo‐philosophical, political and overly passionate or even in some cases overly dispassionate mechanization of emotion which has led to a displeasure with the art form, and – let’s face it, to grief in the emptying concert halls.  And for some reason the joke, the humor, and the aphoristic spark, the glitter of paradoxes has become almost extinct.   We just are unaware of its existence in music.    In fact, our music  ‐  what we are presented with in recent years by classical performers – has in fact mutilated both the body and the soul of music, making it appear very much narrowed in scope due to the way that musical imagery has become over‐simplified and its inner meanings subdued for the sake of the superficiality of performance practice correctness, combined with an overt under‐analysis of the composer’s actual back‐ story for the sake of perceived historical accuracy.  This removes the anthropomorphism that is inherent to the art, and so necessary to communicate the humanity folded within the music.    This paradox between perfect performance and imperfect interpretation denies the music the basic humanity required to communicate the true intent and messaging of the composer. So here it is essential to recognize and to communicate through performance the most brilliant humor, the most brilliant paradoxes, the most brilliant aphorisms, all translated through the vehicle of wonderful musical language.

Let’s see and, as always, we will go through this marvelous piece. This is a wonderful, ridiculous almost mocking, but good‐natured piece.   Modest Petrovich is not implying anything mean spirited.  This is part of his great character. And, as I have already said many times, this is what we ascribe to the unfortunately, overused word “great humanist”.   Well, yes, he’s really a great humanist, a man who understands humanity, loves humanity and all human vices; and stupidity, of course, is a very great flaw, from which almost all misfortunes occur‐he treats it with irony and without malice.

So, the first bar of this piece (7.12). Mass scene. We see the people; we see a feeling of cheerfulness. Composers always use such a fractional technique to create an atmosphere. Well, do not go far, we can remember Shostakovich (7.35) “We are met with a cool morning.” Same thing here. (7.40) This is the atmosphere. Hence, we interpret the first measure as creating an atmosphere. Not yet a personalization.

(7.55) Again, the cinematic presentation.    By the way, we are still talking about the methods.    I already wanted to convey this idea. Mussorgsky died 15 years before the advent of cinema. In the middle of the 19th century, composers already moved from planet to planet, flew, teleported, invented all kinds of engines ‐ both serious and funny, moved at a distance.  Invented all the possible cinematographic techniques that we know to date, including scene editing, the imposition of frames one on another  ‐ this is all already in Liszt’s music.

Starting here with our, as I call them, the three Musketeers  ‐ Schumann, Chopin, Liszt. These three, they have already created all the techniques of modern cinematography and all the visual and acoustic effects that we can imagine. Including the physical and technical discoveries, which we utilize today, including space flights, rocket planes, airplanes and everything else. All this was in their imagination, and all this was transferred already in their music.

So, we did not invent anything new. We just materialized. That is, it is quite obvious that people thought about all this and dreamed thousands of years ago. But in music it was embodied already in the acoustically visual art, which was born after the appearance of these remarkable three born almost at the same time  ‐ Schumann, Chopin, in one‐year‐and Liszt two years earlier. Thanks to these three powerful figures, we already have an unlimited imagination, embodied with everyone  ‐ with all of today’s ideas, embodied in music, embodied through music.

And, of course, Modest Petrovich enjoys and develops all these wonderful things, thanks to his national soil, thanks to his personality and personal characteristics. All these wonderful people  ‐ I must say and we must understand this – their mentality was so fragile, because they lived here in this world and could already embody all these amazing ideas that came to them in the head, ‐ their psyche was very fragile. It was always almost on the verge of insanity. But naturally not in a derogatory sense, not in the sense of idiocy or something so depressing. No, just overtly sensitive people, with too much introspection, with incredible imagination.    The human body, the human brain, cannot withstand the stress of relying upon pure imagination for reality.

 And we know that all these people I mention  ‐  they all suffered from hallucinations ‐ and Modest Petrovich, and Chopin, and Schumann. They often leapt from one state to another, and when they tried to communicate this to us, fell into another already, painful state, when they were frightened by their own visions, when their psyche could not stand it. This is a very difficult to discuss, and we will not permit it to distract us as we go further.   But I just want you to understand how phenomenal this is, how phenomenal the psyche of these people is, the fantasy of these people and at the same time, the enormous endurance of these people. Physical endurance, which endured here these overloads of imagination, this overload of the work of the brain. Not only that they coped with this and did not get permanently committed , they still gave us all this in music and gave birth to ideas that are still far from being materialized in our life, despite the wonderful technology that surrounds us .

So, the atmosphere: (12.19) Having created the atmosphere, we proceed to the action from the second bar. (12.27) So since there is so much happening at once, I will interrupt myself frequently and always explain what is happening.    As we know, the musicologists unfortunately can not tell us anything more than the fact that Modest Petrovich wanted gives us clues as to what is happening here. He actually took the step of writing in French some sort of French gossip, nonsense, when the gossips speak absurd phrases, repeat, ask questions, interrupt each other. So he wanted to tell how to interpret it. But then he took it and erased it, as is often the case with composers.

The same thing happened to Chopin once. And maybe even more than once, we do not know for sure. But the fact that autobiographical information reaches us, Chopin also once wanted to paint much of what he wanted to convey to the performer, then he also took it and erased everything. The same thing happened with Beethoven. The same thing happened with Ravel. The same thing happened with Shostakovich. They all wanted to bring to us in the literary exposition what they put into music. But then they came to the conclusion that it was useless.

The same with Rachmaninov, who said that the smart will guess, the stupid will still not help. And this idea has always stopped all great composers from over‐suggesting what is happening. Here is the same thing happened here. Modest Petrovich took, and erased everything from his narrative , all this gossip. Well, yes, because if there is no real imagination, it will not help a person, he will not realize it anyway. And if 3 there is an artistic imagination, then he will read it in the musical language, corresponding to the level of his professionalism. But, as we know, and how we have already come to a conclusion together during this series, musical language remains a mystery for almost all professional musicians. That is, at the level of phrases and sentences the language is read. But beyond the transparent level of actual words and understanding of the meaning of those musical words, this we have nothing.   Because of this, there is a lot of nonsense and misinterpretations.

​The same is true here if we follow all the interpretations that this work presents to us, this little play of Limoges, in general, we will have only the most general idea of what is happening here. People are keen on the pace, begin to drive incredibly, show their physical abilities, although here are completely different artistic aims to shoot for. Here the most important thing is to convey firstly what the characters are talking about, because we are dealing here with people. We have a market, we have gossips  ‐    they talk, they gossip, they speak.    And it is so vividly expressed, so precisely expressed in music and in technique, that we can decipher everything. We just need to devote time and part of our life to this, only then we can decipher it. And everything else that we hear from the stage ‐ it’s called simply an unprofessional approach.

So, after the creation of the atmosphere (15.50) of the fresh, obviously, morning, mass scene, market, the presence of a large number of people ‐ literally one, two, three, four … ..sixteen notes created an atmosphere and a whole already cinematic series. Further, we hear voices: (16.14) So, what is this? We know that they are gossiping about some cow that has run away somewhere. Then no one understands, whether it’s a cow, or someone has lost teeth, or someone else has lost something. In short, there is already complete confusion. Well, let’s decipher the language.

So, therefore, everything should be approached from the standpoint of mechanically short strokes  (16.41), since this is an atmosphere, this should go to the background. The voices of gossips should come to the fore. Therefore, everything related to the material (16.54) ‐  this is our accompaniment, into the atmosphere. Relief should be very large throughout the narrative. And to the fore, as in the cinema, faces of the speaking gossips  should go out: (17.17). Here it is  ‐ gossip, ran: (17.21).

Further we have strange four accents: (17.26). What is it ? Here, again, everything is very subtle, like everything in the real interpretation of music. We must definitely decipher that with accents, ‐ a strong accent is called sforzando in the language of musicians ‐ and what the composer wants to say here. And the composer says, sempre scherzando, ‐ it must be very funny. Very humorous. But then again, the musicians are so used to feeling like they are at a funeral when playing classical music, so what they think is: well, scherzando okay, it seemed funny to him, in fact it’s not funny. So usually, for some reason, almost all the performers approach the material and wishes of the composers, as if composers are a funeral team. And already a priori it should be boring. And if it’s funny to them, then to us it is certainly not funny. Here is such a feeling, on the one hand, of inferiority, on the other side of incredible superiority. As a rule, this is often combined, unfortunately.

But the composers were genius people. We recognize this all, we understand all this perfectly. So, if they said scherzando, it’s really funny. So, they were funny, it means they made it funny. So, we must laugh, then the problem we have internally is, that if we do not find comical images real, then we do not accomplish much, we do not decipher what is encrypted. And how many scherzos are written by great composers! Oh my God! Every second, third part ‐ scherzo, ‐ in symphonies, here. Are we laughing in the hall? Never! Is it funny to us? Never! Such terrible things happen in the world of interpretation.   

So, what is this: (19.13)? We are dealing with a cartoon, we are dealing with a travesty. Well, of course, this is laughter (19.21) ha‐ha‐ ha‐ha! The gossip was begun, it was reacted to (19.29) ha‐ha‐ha‐ha.

After all, even circus musicians know this laugh. They also play on trumpets, on saxophones, on violins, on cellos, on any wind. And in the end, as a rule, after such a circus laugh (19.43, it is usually always in the circus, either in the farce, or on the street ‐ always the drummer’s impact with the cymbals. The clown makes some kind of joke, and it’s always accompanied by such a cartoon‐ this is a cartoonish musical laughter (20.02) ha‐ha ‐ha‐ ha).

You see ‐ such a small detail. Eight notes. And how much time should be spent here to understand and decipher what the composer meant here. But then we can adequately execute and deliver. Of course, you can spank, like everyone does (20.22) ‐  4 accents. But they will not say anything. The whole trouble is that if the interpreter does not understand exactly what the conversation is about, he cannot convey it. But this is transmitted not only through music, but transmitted through some unknown communications, biofields, something that scientists still have to decipher.   But what makes music magical, a live musical communication between a living musician and the audience is when all artistic images based on solid knowledge and great expressiveness are transmitted to us. Being in the hall, we cannot feel it, do not understand on the spot, do not understand what the interpreter is telling us. But we will feel it, and then it grows in us ‐ understanding. But in any case, the impression will be a meaningful musical performance, when, maybe, we do not know what is happening, but we will still laugh, because it will be funny.

So, (21.22) ha‐ha‐ha‐ha. Laugh. I want to show you two small examples of how composers portray laughter. For example, this is a characterized laugh . I’m sure that this is not the laughter of Modest Petrovich himself. I think that he, being an open minded but temperamental person, probably laughed 4 from his heart but even more so. Although it is quite often laughter, when people hold to their tummies. But this, after all, is a parody of laughter.

For example, here’s how Chopin laughs (21.54). But this, of course, was his own laugh. He murmured and even a choked a little, but after a fit of laughter, he still chuckles. Here, of course, he portrayed himself. For example, as Liszt portrays laughter: (22.18), and further laughter is incredible. But this is the laughter of philosophical content, this is the laughter of Mephistopheles, with whom Liszt laughs in the finale of his sonata. It’s something here a little scary and dangerous. Since Liszt was very public  ‐  philosophical, he is a musical philosopher  ‐ that’s why he usually tells us such things  ‐  at the level of Goethe, at the level of Faust, the cosmic is something philosophical ‐ cosmic, generalizing. Therefore, there is another laugh. But as you can see, everywhere ‐ all the coda of the Liszt Sonata is built on the laughter of Mephistopheles, Chopin, as always is about himself  ‐ his laughter is wonderful, charming. Well, Modest Petrovich, then, gives us his laughter, clown laughter.  

So, let’s go further: (23.27) ha‐ ha‐ ha‐ ha. (23.30). Further, he shows us the reaction of various characters: (23.40), further focus on the second beat, instead of the first, (23.45) then again on the second, (23.47) and the first. The polyphonic series turns on when we see two gossips talking. That is, on the one hand we still have (23.58) this nervousness, which is peculiar to the market and for gossips, especially for gossips. But the difficulty here of the interpretation is precisely in the creation of the artistic image, when we have to remove the less important details, that is, the atmospheric details ‐ (24.19) ‐ this is atmospheric. And the conversation is here: (24.23)(24.27) ‐ persuasively,(24.29) ‐ surprised, what do you say (24.34)! ‐Yes, I convince you (24.35)! ‐Yes that cannot be (24.37)! And further two gossips have already jumped on each other   ‐And I’m telling you (24.45)!  ‐Oh well!  ‐And I’m telling you!  ‐Yes, it cannot be ! And they return again to the first gossip (24.53). Only further is already a completely different understanding of this gossip, another interpretation. Well, as it followed from the clue ‐ first talking about the cow, and then about the lost teeth, the devil knows what! In short, the absolute nonsense is, at the level ‐ what Fellini and other people like to have shown in filmmaking for the gift of a cartoonist, caricaturist, and humorist.

(25.24) Here already with us, if you remember, the first gossip was like this:
(25.31) ‐ the reaction was not too sharp, then here, in the same turn we see a completely different reaction from other character (25.46). There is some (25.50  ‐ 25.52) .. something so important and fat, there is another character who intercepts the initiative of the conversation. Every half a measure the situation changes (26.10)  ‐ surprise, conviction of each other, (‐ two geese. Moreover, it is very interesting that I sometimes allowed myself to smile that Modest Petrovich is not very accurate, if you remember, in the “Castle” for some harmonies he moved from Italy a little to the South‐Spanish harmonies, then here it can not be said that this is the Russian market. No, it’s all‐those French self‐satisfied smokers, self‐satisfied gossips, smug fools (26.47). The self‐satisfied phrase is incredibly cleverly done (26.55), and the second person, listening, as if to say : yes, yes, yes, yes, yes‐yes‐yes, yes‐yes‐yes‐yes  ‐yes .. In fact, this fragmentation speaks for much more. This is the magic of musical language  ‐ with a thousand associations.

Well, I try to do as little as possible to them, not to invest in your ears my own associations. But I just want simply to say, and show to you how fantastically and wittily it is made. So, (27.35) it is a surprise. Here begins more and more excited indictment of each other, although the subject of the dispute is already clearly forgotten, it is completely absurd (27.51). As you can see, everything reaches complete absurdity. Now I’m exaggerating this a little, in fact, maybe it can be calmer. But Modest Petrovich himself brings to the point of absurdity, when the next two bars are, as a rule, already his crowning device ‐ to show the excitement of the crowd with one note: (28.30). He does it also in Boris Godunov, we can hear it in the scene under Kromy, when agitated  crowds appear. Very cool, he came up with this not to show any chords or a lot of polyphonic conflicts.  No, it is here that(28.53) the crowd is unified in its general idiocy, when they are already losing all human form. It was precisely these endless disputes that we saw here, which were increasingly crushed and crushed, and crushed and crushed, the gossip becoming shorter and shorter, absurd and more absurd  ‐(29.12).

And our task, if you remember,  ‐ Give the gossip voice (29.21 ‐ 29.23), and the listener, atmospheric ‐ be on the sidelines. That is, to create not a flat atmosphere of our picture or film, if you will, but to create an atmosphere. Because if we play more or less the same, then we will not have depth, we will have a flat, meaningless search of sounds (29.45).

And then completely fall into the madness, which can in general, even from the position of the artist, just say ‐ aaaaaaa! ‐ there is nothing more logical here, everything goes out of control, Modest Petrovich brings us back to the first gossip: (30.28), again with this clownish laughter ‐ ha‐ha‐ ha‐ha. And using the same techniques, the same music, with the use of different modulations, creates different situations again: (30.53)  ‐ two geese talking, one convinces, the second is surprised. And then they become completely like chickens, if you remember our chicken ballet, this is the split, yes.

But the female crowd of gossips, gossips excitedly and with great emotional force in a heated set of exchanges that are rooted in chaos and commotion that is common to a tumultuous crowded situation, mimicking the dialect of a chicken coop, and often which is a humorist’s comparison. We see the same thing here: (31.31) ‐ conviction, objection, ‐  everything is already breaking,  Everyone has already forgotten what the conversation is about. Just screaming at each other and jumping in with the desire to convince, only the original impetus or focus is already forgotten. And further on, ‐ as often does Modest Petrovich, and as many composers who are able to engage in narrative have very well artistic images and who, if you use English ‐ story tellers ‐ tell us the story ‐ and this, in general , almost all the composers of the 19th century, as a rule, are romantics ‐ we are told a story. And, in general, this is one of the most valuable abilities of the composer ‐ to tell a story. Either the story of his soul, or some genre scenes. And Mussorgsky, as we know, owns everything.

So, a little epilogue. What does Modest Petrovich say here? He asks ‐ meno mosso, to medium speed, sempre capriccioso, again, to make it as absurdly funny as possible: (32.50). What it is? In principle, the same thing, only as if the camera moves away, the atmospheric driving force remains on the one hand, on the other hand, it is a typical theatrical reception, theatrical, circus, opera, ballet. This is when all actors are already before us ready to bow at the end, after a comedy piece. This is a typical buffoonery. When this is just a parade of fools, or a clown parade. That’s all who spoke, everyone who participated there ‐ as if the action slows down, very often they use it in the ballet ‐ when all the clowns begin to march just before us in the proscenium (33.56). And the last measure  ‐  completely phenomenal again the reception of cinema and sound recording. When accelerating to the end, this is when ‐ we know this very well from movies  ‐  when the absurd reaches a maximum, then this is the acceleration of both sound and imagery. That is, it’s in comedy movies, since the time of silent cinema, but especially in the second half of the 20th century, when… And to this day it is used in all television comedies , in all shows. Wherever the director wants to emphasize the absurdity, he uses this technique. So, we see that this method has already been invented in fantasy and in the head, and in the soul of musical composers. Then came to the cinematography and audio recordings.

(35.15) So, I will play the whole of these last four measures, that is, the parade of fools and the acceleration of the absurd, when the author wants to say to us: Well, God is with you, it will continue ‐ human stupidity is infinite. And he accelerates all this, and leads us to a picture of complete absurdity and how he waves his hand and says that humanity is incorrigible. Well, to this day it is relevant (35.48).

That’s such a small scherzo. Such a rich, funny, parodic, fantastically transmitted atmosphere and fully expresses what the author wanted to tell us.
Many thanks!

                                                                                                                                   Translated by Svetlana Harris and Todd A Harris

Part 9 “Catacombs (Roman Tombs)”

Catacombs, where Modest Petrovich was able to express himself and to encode himself in such a way that today we are the first ones, after all these 144 years since creation of the Pictures, looking into the very depth of his suffering soul.
Catacombs. But what is this piece?
The further we advance into this remarkable epic work which is like a musical Iliad, (I already talked about this), the more it becomes perfectly obvious that so called Pictures have become not just a secondary issue, but moved really far far away.

In front of us, of course, is Mussorgsky’s confession from the beginning to the end. In front of us is Modest Petrovich’s persona, expressed in all the themes that one way or another existed in his heart, in his brain, in his body. That is, it is he himself. As I already have said in the beginning of the narrative, Pictures appeared only as a catalyst, as a trigger that awakened his desire to declare himself completely. Like Liszt declared himself in Mefisto, declared his very innermost hidden thoughts. Same way Modest Petrovich declared himself in this work where we can hear the reverberations of practically his entire music life. Here come live fragments of his overtures, fragments and methods of Boris Godunov, Khovanshchina, his song series “The Nursery” and “The Flea”, “The Fair at Sorochyntsi”… In short, he spoke himself out via piano, moreover, spoke out his life philosophy, and told us his emotions and his very inmost thoughts.

So, Catacombs are, of course, the center of the dramatic narrative. What do we see at first glance? Static sounds of various volume [2:53], as performed by pianists for more than a century now. But let’s try to look deeper into these static sounds. Let’s walk away from a picture that doesn’t really convey anything, where Gartman portrayed himself in Catacombs and thus provoked Modest Petrovich’s thoughts about the other world, world of tombs, thoughts that we may call “not of this world”.

If we look at the text carefully, we will find Modest Petrovich’s persona in his music. Not just his persona that manifests itself in the Pictures illustration, which seems at first sight that it is being symbolized by static stone-like sounds. Let us remember these several sounds which are called catacombs, as reflected in the name for this piece. [4:41]… And the transition to Promenade in minor scale.

At first sight, this doesn’t tell us anything. If we go further, we see a method used by all the composers from whom Modest Petrovich learned, Schumann first of all. They are Sphinxes, the idea is the same. Mysterious sounds that are played either in a static manner or are meant to tell us that we are supposed to make the Sphinx talk. That means we have to “tremolo” him to make him talk.
There are many traditional ways to perform Schumann’s Sphinx where he encoded his name, his surname. Some musicians play it in a static manner, by separate accords; others play with tremolo and try to somehow make these sphinxes talk to tell them their secret. In short, these techniques and these declarations mean a lot of improvisation and readings of the Sphinxes’ mysteries.

This idea came to Schumann from the composers of the pre-Bach era who developed it. Bach was fond of encoding his name, we all know his B-A-C-H fugue [7:28]. This theme where Bach’s surname is encoded is developed by Bach himself many a time. And then, up until now. Even Alfred Schnittke wrote fugatos and fugues on this theme. Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich encoded his surname. In short, every composer has his “sphinx” were his mystery is encoded.

Well, let’s try to decode and make talk Modest Petrovich’s sphinx, which is actually not so hard to do if we envision the Russian character at the time, or like they put it nowadays, the psychotype of the genuine remarkable Russian person, extremely emotional, with highly sensitive psyche, highly intellectual, and carrying the heavy burden of the Russian way of life, the life of constant drama, understanding the fate of Russian intelligentsia, Russian individualism. In short, all the complexity of Russian problems. And in addition, all the underlying personal circumstances.

And if, in retrospective, we’ll now look at the life and death issues, and encoding issues then we’ll see that Modest Petrovich is present not just in Promenade where he declares himself as just walking and mulling over various circumstances. But he is present in practically every one of his works except for parody, caricature, and genre scenes.

In all the serious nerve entanglements of this epopee we see him, not only in his secret form where he doesn’t really show himself but where his face is coming out as, like we were discussing earlier, by cinematographic methods. Imagine this cinematography method where we see the of face of the character, and it becomes transparent, it becomes secondary, and we see episodes of his life, various situations, a montage, where it is clear sometimes, and sometimes not so clear, and we see his face shining through, his eyes, and his soul.

The cinematographers know how to do it really well, especially nowadays, with all kinds of nuances. And so this cinematographic method was of course created by musicians and composers. Cinematography just borrows it from musical compositions.

Do you remember what Modest Petrovich is associating himself with? With which harmony he describes himself? [10:50]. Very sairy spirit. It’s an almost pentatonic scale, almost the same which Debussy will operate with later on [11:02] with only one small deviation [11:08]. That is, here we see this Slavic transparency of his soul which he encoded [11:19]. This is absolutely remarkable! This impressionist image of a transparent Slavic key that is bursting out at us from before the Christian era, expressed by means of such a remarkable melody the whole world loves. Like the whole world loves the introduction to Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto [11:53] where Peter Ilyich tells us about the creation of the world, seven bangs of the creation of the world, seven bangs of the beginning of Tchaikovsky’s concerto. This is the Creation of the World. Peter Ilyich is creating his world. And with this concerto, with his new world he comes to the public.

I’d like to go back to what I was talking about in the previous piece: when the musician comprehends what he is doing, the public, the people, not being professional musicians, even having no understanding, get the importance of the message anyway. Why do we love, and why does everyone know “the fate” from Beethoven’s Fifth? Because a lot of sense is put in it, in four mere sounds. The same exact way everyone knows and loves the introduction to Tchaikovsky’s Concerto, because Peter Ilyich had put a huge amount of sense and his whole life in the creation of his world, in these four sounds [13:03]. The same happened to Modest Petrovich who, through this consonance [13:10] bordering both Asia and Europe, is portraying himself in this pentatonic Asian image.
Of course, his blood roots are speaking here. His pure Slavic blood, from the wild Slavic tribes, from this perfect purity. Surely, he wasn’t thinking of this philosophical massif that we are discussing here when he associated himself… This harmony simply sounded in his soul [13:52].

So, here we have Modest Petrovich “balanced”. But take a note: if we remember Old Castle, we are going to pass now, like in a movie, through the remembrances, as if we have already lived our lives, and have come to this moment, Catacombs – it is the central nervous system, everything comes together here. We are going to see all of this now, follow it so you can understand what I am talking about.

From Catacombs, therefore, we are going to look back in retrospective. So, [14:30] here we have Modest Petrovich’s spirit. Now then, let’s see what we have here in the minor key for the first time, with the appearance of this piece in the minor scale [14:41]. We already traced where it comes from, it comes from Tarantella, but whether willingly or unwillingly, Modest Petrovich, he again, expressed himself here, only in the minor key…

[15:05]. Modest Petrovich is here, here he comes! He lived in this castle, he places himself there.
The next dramatic piece is based on a Belorussian folk song about terrible fate, never ending miserable existence, and sorrowful life [15:43]. And again, Asian theme is encoded in it, almost Japanese harmony [16:00]. That is almost pentatonic Asian, Asian grain and salt that lives in these Slavic tribes, this is where he sees himself from coming from, and his music shows it: how Modest Petrovich sees and hears and feels. The same harmony, the same man who lives there, same spirit. This is incredibly interesting and deep!

Did Modest Petrovich realize it? I don’t know. But this is of no importance to us! What is important is what comes out of the stroke of genius. For us in retrospective, from our temporary position, it’s interesting to see how and in what way this man expressed himself in eternity, because a human soul is eternal. And everything he carried through his music, everything he gave us, was reflected later in the works of only two men who can be considered his musical “relatives”. A very nerve wracking Shostakovich, because there was the constant confrontation with totalitarian regime, to the point of an almost constant hysterical state of mind. So, it’s of course a very much distorted soul due to grief and unhappiness. And then there is a very ironic view but with the same Slavic roots, same blood, and this is Stravinsky, who gave us the same harmonic combinations [18:05], that later were passed on to Debussy, who created his own cosmos.

But look at the kinship of these souls! How all this is wandering! One multi headed multinational soul with the same roots, provided they are pure and beautiful and create one musical cosmos. We, on our small planet, are flying through these harmonies with the help of men from different nations, through the creation of their works seen through the prism of their national and personal fates, allowing us to hear, to recognize, to see, and to analyze.

But let’s go back to our Catacombs. Let’s try to make Modest Petrovich’s Sphinx talk. So, we saw that he existed in this [19:04] form, existed in this form [19:08]. It encodes itself consciously or unconsciously, which isn’t important to us.

So, let’s remember the beginning [19:24], let’s travel to the catacombs [19:28], it’s the same passage only a slightly distorted one. If here [19:36], then here [19:39], in Catacombs, and further on [19:42], this is Modest Petrovich again! It is him! It’s him, only he sees himself in a new condition, that’s why it’s his ego which he expressed using the Slavic pentatonic, at first in major, then in minor scale, and then he expresses himself as he’s not of this world any longer. That is why we see [20:18]this Sphinx-like stone-like posture. And then the bass passage [20:26] – a drop down into “tartarary”. A drop down into scorching heat. Death [20:36].

Composer’s methods are perfectly obvious, the way we see and associate his emotional senses with all of human history, with all of our impressions and emotions. In Christianity and before it, death is always associated with a drop down to the center of the Earth, or to the burning griddle, with a gigantic fall. Even if we ascend to heaven, the moment of death, moment of dying is always associated with this [21:17]… Fall.

So, we understand that it is Modest Petrovich in the image of the Sphinx. Interesting! Now let’s try to make him talk in order to understand what this Sphinx is made out of. So, Catacombs; only the speaking kind [21:48]. He is asking to play the second note very quietly. The first note should be played loudly and the second one very quietly. And the third one, he wants us to “warm it up”. He puts crescendo, i.e. increase in volume. And an increase from piano, from a very quiet sound, to a huge forte! That means we are supposed to “blow up” this note using tremolo, and to become the coauthors, and not just unseeing performers of these standing Sphinxes, who don’t speak to us as long as we have not been admitted into their secrecy.

So, [22:37]. When we get to the double forte [22:46], if we play deliberately, like everyone else plays, then we won’t be able to carry out what he later intends to do. First of all, we won’t be able to “blow it up” from piano to forte. Second, he wants us to hit, to accent every second beat of these loud Sphinxes. We won’t be able to do this if we play in a deliberate manner. Therefore, we need to improvise here, to tremolo, then we’ll get the result. [22:15].

Here, the Sphinx begins talking to us [23:43]. And every one of these Sphinxes we have to play with a different technique in order for them to talk to us openly and sincerely.

When we come to this point [24:05], the sound needs to flow like a wave. Why? I want you to listen. Remember, I was talking about the gypsy orchestras? Remember, I was talking about his vigil in the Maly Yaroslavets restaurant? About his alcoholism, about his drinking problem, about his falls? About his hallucinations, his fainting spells, his hysterics spells [24:39]. About Sorokin guitar (and it was in Saint-Petersburg already), and Sorokin already played it. It is hundred years old. We heard Sorokin play it in the 60s, this guitar, exactly this very guitar Modest Petrovich could have heard in the gypsy choir, gypsy orchestra. Look at the connection between the points in time. So, [25:06], in this Sphinx we can hear the sound of gypsy orchestras, that’s why we have to make this Sphinx talk in a way the gypsy orchestras sound: of cymbals, balalaikas, guitars, well, you know it very well. And we can imagine the character. What character? We can associate Modest Petrovich only with the characters of Mitya Karamazov or Fedya Protasov from “The Living Dead” by Tolstoy. These are the beautiful examples of Russian national character, unbelievably emotional, they are practically asocial, and they all live in that lethal, suicidal Russian bohème.

And so here we see [26-07] perfectly definite gypsy intonations of a terrible musical drama which was ringing very deep inside Modest Petrovich’s soul.

This music, by the way, was one of the defining themes that sounded in Shostakovich’s soul as well, he spoke about it himself [26:45]. And last, if we are already talking about it, we can see a sobbing Russian man, the likes of Mitya Karamazov, Fedya Protasov from “The Living Dead” by Tolstoy, i.e. a real Russian [27:15].

Here, in the last part of this Sphinx, we can see the pure hysterics of a man. Hysterics of a Russian man, drowning in the ocean of Russian bohème, gypsy orchestra, and complete self-destruction and absence of control [27:55]. We practically see a cinematographic scene of explosion and despair of a Russian hero [28:24].

And all this is connected with a literal loss of consciousness which is practically written out here. And Modest Petrovich’s merge, in his Promenade form, with the spirit of Gartman.

That is, he fell down there, fell into hysterics, fainted, and his soul ascended [29:00], and it’s now above, now below.
Stasov, who hardly understood anything in what Mussorgsky composed, told us, based on the scarce words of Mussorgsky, what he envisaged himself here: speaking to the dead in a dead tongue, Gartman taking him by the hand, they walk together [29:36], there are sculls there in the picture. It does not matter in a musical sense. There is a totally different thing here, and it’s deeply personal [29:54].

Here we see the Modest Petrovich’s soul, and it falls from heavenly heights down to the set decorations of hell, [30:26] and does it with a great fear.
These simple methods paint pictures which are totally otherworldly. Very simple, just two musical voices, double bass, and tremolo in the upper voice, but with such a remarkable palette there is no need to be loquacious. This is exactly the same in literature, and in poetry as it is in music, which is the sister of all these arts; and the brevity and laconism become all-inclusive and complete when the feelings run deep. [31:17]. We see enlightenments.

Why did I say it was the central nervous system of all? Simply because here we can see the true collapse of a man, the explosion of despair, practically “described” by a fall, hysterics, loss of consciousness and flight into other spheres, and other worlds. Surely, it is the center of a drama. And an epic drama at that. Therefore, Homer comes to mind, and the passions of ancient Egypt[32:09].

Here, Modest Petrovich opened up his soul to us, shared his state of mind, and described it. We saw the real Russian hero that we knew from books, like I said before, Karamazov, Fedya Protasov, these amazing characters created by our genius authors. [32:41]. And now his soul is expressed in musical form. Here he is, a real Russian hero with his confession. And this is a completely unique experience that we will always live through with him and with the Russian people, Russian consciousness, and Russian soul. This is a monument to the Russian soul, to that kind of Russian people who are no longer here and will never, ever be here. Which makes this work, and especially this central nervous system of this work, Catacombs, (and later the ascending, travelling to another world, meeting with the spirit of a dead friend, the fear) all this makes it such a tremulant, theatrical, cinematographic audio/visual experience, which no other art and no other work can communicate.

For this, we’ll always be grateful to Modest Petrovich, for immortalizing that which has now forever disappeared from this planet.

Thank you.
Catacombs [34:02]

                                                                                                                              Translated by Fira Headrick and Masha Taborisskaya.

Baba Yaga
Part 10 “The Hut on Hen’s Legs (Baba Yaga)”

From the series AG “The Return of Music”. Baba Yaga. The theme of the “Russian evil” in the Mussorgsky’s music.

This is a remarkable work, entwined into the epic canvas (I call it nothing but this anymore, since it really is an epic canvas) (“The Pictures at the Exhibition by Mussorgsky – editor’s note), where the unblemished Slavic nature of the great Russian man is coming to life.

This is the second piece dedicated to the evil spirit. It is interesting to see and compare it to the first piece, The Gnome. By now we know that The Gnome is nothing but a transformed historical development of the myth about gnomes which has refracted in the Russian consciousness into the evil spirits.

If we go back and remember how The Gnome sounded when Viy appeared (AG is playing: (1.19)… I’d like to say here that the musical intonations of composer’s whole life, his world outlook are present in him at all times. This is very important to know. I was fortunate to have known some really great composers in my lifetime, and I know a little bit, from the outside point of view (because I was too young to really understand anything and to appreciate), but from my personal experiences and conversations I know how certain musical intonations live in a person, and the person lives with them his whole life.
When they appear, the composers can’t really say. That is, whether they were born with these intonations or they acquired them, these are the questions which scientists are the ones to answer, probably not so soon because this is not something of first importance and has nothing to do with the health issues which occupy medical scientists’ minds.

Nevertheless, it’s absolutely obvious to me, and you can believe my empirical experience, that the composer is practically born with music that later ripens within him. The same way our body ripens, when we go through our childhood, puberty, teenage years, then youth, then we mature, accumulating and comprehending our life experience. And it is then when the real creation of art begins… But certain motifs which are associated with negativity, bad things, or positive, kind, good things, they live in shape of melody and sometimes in shape of just musical intervals. And so, it’s easy to trace this in the development of The Gnome.

What is the Viy appearance?  It’s the theme of evil which Modest Petrovich felt inside as long as he could remember himself. This is easy to trace from the fragments of his early and, unfortunately, unfinished work, opera The Fair at Sorochyntsy; very famous overture, (or symphonic poem, or symphonic piece), you can just call it a fragment, Night on Bald Mountain, where all the evil creatures are flocking together.

So how do the evil spirits appear? First, they are flying, the violins are playing there (4.24), now moving away, now coming closer, depending on which, there will be crescendo, diminuendo, the flight… The flight of an evil spirit  (4.38); the good spirit doesn’t fly on chromatic harmonies.
And so, it is connected with our perception of this world. I am trying not to be too loquacious here because all of this is so interesting, but we will devote a separate record cycle to it: how the associations come to life, why they do, and how all this is connected with our bodies, our physiology, our vision, touch, taste, hearing, with our whole existence on our planet. All has its own logical explanation and its own rationale; it is an exceedingly interesting process.
So, why do the chromatic passages cause the feeling of discomfort, connection to the evil spirits etc. etc.? Night On Bald Mountain, it starts with pianissimo: the witches are flying on their brooms; and then all the evil spirits are appearing in no other way or motif but by the same notes and musical intervals the transformed Viy appears later (6.11).

This is a very characteristic musical sketch that gives us an image of the evil (6.34). Namely, by using glissando from one tone to another, because here again we have, speaking of associations, “crawling” association with the reptile. And what is a reptile? Not a reptile in a sense of biblical description, but later on, the association of a reptile with something that has neither arms nor legs, crawls on its belly, and therefore we associate it with “crawling” chromatic harmonies therefore causing our dislike. It has an easy and simple explanation, having something to do with our physiology, dislike for something that has neither arms nor legs and is significantly different from us. And we associate it with something that crawls on its belly, the next association being: grovel. In short, who am I to explain it to you, my dear audience, my dear spectators, since you know it yourself very well and can explore it for yourselves as it such a fun resear