Pictures at an Exhibition 2018
Sometimes the inspiration for a piece of art is another work of art. Russian composer Modeste Mussorgsy’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” is a suite of 10 piano pieces composed in reflection on 10 paintings by Mussorgsy’s good friend Vladimir Hartmann. The paintings were exhibited at a memorial after the artist's death. A recurring musical theme called a promenade links the pieces together and represents the viewer’s walk from painting to painting in the exhibition. Over the years, several composers orchestrated “Pictures at an Exhibition,” with the most famous being that by Maurice Ravel.
This artistic collaboration so-to-speak inspired a collaboration between Larry Lipkis, composer-in-residence at Moravian College, and Diane Wittry, music director and conductor of the Allentown Symphony. The two conceived of a contest in which composers in four categories—K-8, high school, college, and adults—were invited to write a piece of 3 minutes or less based on their experience of a piece of artwork on display at the Allentown Art Museum.
Twenty-seven pieces were submitted and seven were selected for the grand work “Pictures at an Exhibition 2018:” one each from K-8, high school, and college composers and four written by adults. Lipkis was charged with arranging the seven works into a seamless orchestral piece, writing the promenade sections that take the listener from one musical composition to the next. “It took a fair amount of time to build the whole work because the individual pieces were written with different software,” says Lipkis. “It was very satisfying to see this project come together.”
“Pictures at an Exhibition 2018” premiered on March 10 at Miller Symphony Hall, performed by the Allentown Symphony Orchestra in conjunction with projections of the artwork that inspired the music. Later in the program, the orchestra performed Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsy’s work in conjunction with a Fantasia-like animation of the piece produced by the USC School of Cinematic Arts.