Perspectives on ‘Pictures’ – the Conservatorium High students perform

Viktor Hartmann's Plan for a City Gate in Kiev

Following their brilliant performance of Mozart’s Requiem last year, the students of the Conservatorium High School in Sydney perform the music of Mussorgsky, Ravel and Poulenc in Pictures, Glorious Pictures.

They will present two perspectives on Mussorgsky’s ten movement virtuoso piece Pictures at an Exhibition – the original piano version composed in 1874, and the orchestral adaptation by Ravel from 1922. The musical portraits weave a tale incorporating the stuff of fantasies – Tuileries, a Gnome, and Old Castle, the Ballet of Unhatched Chicks, Promenades, Catacombs, the Market at Limoges and the majestic Great Gate of Kiev. They were all the subjects of paintings by Mussorgsky’s friend Viktor Hartmann who died prematurely aged 39. In tribute, Hartmann’s friends who shared his nationalist Russian vision, organised an exhibition of Hartmann’s paintings. Grieved and inspired by is friend’s sudden death, Mussorgsky composed this substantial suite in a matter of weeks, although it remained unpublished until 1886, five years after Mussorgsky’s death.

Ravel’s orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition brings a softer sensuality to the suite, reminiscent of water colours. The adaptation was commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky, later Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who conducted the first recording of the work with the BSO, in 1930.

Linking the two ‘Pictures’ and anticipating the Gallic feel is the Gloria by Francis Poulenc. In fact, there is another link between Poulenc’s Gloria and Ravel’s Pictures. The Gloria was commissioned by the Koussevitsy Foundation in honour of Serge Koussevitsky and Nathalie his wife. Fittingly, the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed its world premiere in January 1961.

The Conservatorium High School Choir and Orchestra will be conducted by Carolyn Watson and the soprano solo in the Gloria will be performed by Elizabeth Scott. The pianists of the Conservatorium High School will perform the original piano version of ‘Pictures’ by Mussorgsky.

Carolyn Watson

Carolyn Watson, who is Conductor – in – Residence at the Conservatorium High School has an amusing take on the preparations: ” It was Bernstein who said ‘to achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan,and not quite enough time.’ Nothing could be a more apt description of the first concert of the 2012 Conservatorium High School Concert Calendar”.

She also emphasises out that “This inaugural 2012 CHS concert will showcase a number of ‘firsts’ for the High School. The finale of the concert will see every single student in the school on stage for Mussorgsky’s magnificent concluding movement, the Great Gate of Kiev. Traditionally, it has been the choir which features the whole school – to add instruments, music stands and a battery of percussion, does however present significant logistical challenges! That said, it is intended the outcome will outweigh these associated considerations. Also, in a new arrangement with broadcaster 2MBS, the Conservatorium High School’s 2012 will be recorded for future replay”.

Coincidentally,the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is performing Mozart’s Requiem (which the CHS students performed last year) and  Poulenc’s Gloria together later this year. Conducting the SSO in this series will be David Zinman with whom Carolyn Watson studied at the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen. Seems that the younger performers have have beaten their older counterparts in presenting this combination of works!

Shamistha de Soysa





Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *