In year 8, I was at Macquarie Centre with the Ashbury girls and I purchased my very first $10 classical music CD. It was Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It was the beginning of a long love affair with the poor drunkard composer, and Russian romantic composers in general.

Mussorgsky, when he was younger, wealthier and less dependent on alcohol

Mussorgsky, shortly before his death. The Tsar emancipated all the serfs in the mid 1800s and all the rich people (including Mussorgsky’s family) became less rich. Mussorgsky went from being an idle rich person to being many things, including a public servant, an alcoholic and a brilliant composer and pianist.

I was soon so well aquainted with the Pictures at an Exhibition I could listen to it in my imagination. It was beautiful. I bought the original piano version. I own two copies of the orchestral version. I listened to it religiously and also listen to his contemporary composers. I felt that couldn’t wait until the day when I could see it performed live, but I ended up waiting for years.

Tonight marked the end of my waiting! 😀

I saw it tonight, finally, performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and it was so worth waiting 4 years to see it. The first half of the concert was (fairly boring) Schumann. However when we came in after the interval, the wind and brass sections has doubled in size. The percussion section had grown from one musician to six. There were harps and a celeste and even a saxaphone for The Old Castle movement. I had left it late to book the tickets, so we were sitting in the box behind the orchestra. We could see the conductor and lookd down on the french horns and percussion. It was sweet.

The brass was so loud and the basses were so eerie and the oboes and flutes really did sound like childeren bickering in the park (check out the sixth part – the tuilleries. Everything was just like it should be (although the last movement was too fast, I thought). And the whole night was drenched in memories. The times we played Bydlo and The Great Gate of Kiev in orchestra. When Chris played the oboe solo from Limoges: The Market Place for his music prac. It reminded me of the days in year 9 and year 10 when classical music was the only thing I would listen to, I would sit on the floor of the study with the music playing and I would sketch and draw what I heard. I would pick out the flute parts and imagine that one day I would be able to play it all myself (imaginings quickly shattered once I picked up the instrument and realised I would never ever be that good).

And being at the opera house, I remember when we used to perform there. We would hang around after the rehersal and eat icecream and bum in the city, holding our instrument cases and feeling special because we could go through the stage door. We would run outside after our piece was over and slide down the front of the opera house in our performance clothes. It was always cool and dark because it was winter. One time we were performing the same night as a Bell Shakespeare production and the green room was full of actors in chainmail and flowing dresses.


6 thoughts on “Mussorgsky

  1. Anonymous


    How I miss those performances, the post-gig high, the simple fact that I HAD A CLARINET AND COULD MAKE SWEET SOUNDS. I want those times back. To hell with the rest of school, I MISS THE IMP.

    It’s still so fulfilling when people talk to me about the Opera House (especially in Perth) and I can say, rather dreamily “yeah…I’ve performed there…”


  2. waterphaerie

    Ahh i love that music. I remember when we played the Great Gate and also the rest of the pictures at an exhibition at lane cove orchestra, and one of the clarients asked “Why did they say he was Modest Mussorgsky??!!!” “…Cos that’s his name, Annaliese…”

    hehe. Great mu7sic though. Especially the Bydlo, i like. I used to hate it when we played it, but if it’s performed well it’s breathtaking.



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