top of page

stolen pictures



Modest Mussorgsky

"Pictures at an Exhibition" (arr. piano trio)

  1. Promenade

  2. The Gnome

  3. The Old Castle

  4. Tuileries (Children's Quarrel after Games)

  5. Cattle

  6. Ballet of Unhatched Chicks

  7. Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle

  8. Limoges. The Market (The Great News)

  9. Catacombs (Roman Tomb)

  10. With the Dead in a Dead Language

  11. Baba Yaga (The Hut on Hen's Legs)

  12. The Great Gate of Kiev



Toru Takemitsu

Between Tides (1993)

Claude Debussy

La Mer (arr. piano trio by Sally Beamish)

  1. De l'aube a midi sur la mer

  2. Jeux de vagues

  3. Dialogue du vent et de la mer


about this program


On August 4, 1873, at age 39, the renowned Russian artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann had an aneurism and died. The sudden loss sent shock waves throughout Russia's artistic community, and, within months, an exhibition of more than 400 of Hartmann's works was staged at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg.

Most of the works in this exhibition are now lost, but, thanks to one inspired attendee, they are not forgotten. Modest Mussorgsky was a close friend of Hartmann's, and even loaned two paintings he had purchased from Hartmann to the exhibition. Inspired by the show, he wrote what would become one of his most famous works in just three inspired weeks: Pictures at an Exhibition.

Originally a suite for solo piano, each movement is a musical illustration of a single work within the sprawling exhibition. The reaction to its first performance was mixed, to say the least:


There was no end to the enthusiasm shown by his devotees; but many of Mussorgsky's friends, on the other hand, and especially the comrade composers, were seriously puzzled and, listening to the 'novelty,' shook their heads in bewilderment. Naturally, Mussorgsky noticed their bewilderment and seemed to feel that he 'had gone too far.' He set the illustrations aside without even trying to publish them.

Like Hartmann's exhibition, Pictures was not published until after Mussorgsky's death. The first edition, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, was full of errors, and the piece was only corrected by a scholarly publication after 45 years. In 1922, Serge Koussevitsky commissioned Maurice Ravel to orchestrate the piece. This version — one of Ravel's most masterful and colorful orchestrations — is the version most audiences know today.

There are some parallels between Mussorgsky's Pictures and Debussy's La Mer, the second large orchestra work featured on this program. Composed between 1903 and 1905, Debussy's now-iconic La Mer received similarly mixed reviews at first. Just as Mussorgsky was inspired by a close relationship he was grieving, Debussy had many happy childhood memories by the sea, but for some reason avoided large bodies of water as an adult, "preferring the seascapes available in painting and literature." Finally, while Mussorgsky's piece began as a piano work and was later orchestrated, Debussy's piece took the reverse path: initially a work for orchestra, he later arranged it for piano four hands.


Now, both pieces appear in a new form for piano trio, capitalizing on the almost orchestral variety of colors available from the violin, cello, and piano, while retaining the clarity and intimacy of the piano versions.


Preceding and preparing "La Mer" is Toru Takemitsu's beautiful "Between Tides," a richly layered trio originally written for Peter Serkin, Pamela Frank, and Yo-Yo Ma in 1993. It is part of Takemitsu's late compositional period, representing a return to "functional" harmony and "traditional" rhythm.

bottom of page