Chicago Symphony pours its soul into Mussorgsky masterpiece
You couldn’t help but smile as the Chicago Symphony took one of history’s most inspirational works of music — Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures from an Exhibition” — and made it soar.
The audience Wednesday night in the packed Granada became emotionally invested in music that stirs the soul.
Mussorgsky’s masterpiece has it all, from the humor in the fifth movement, “Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells,” to the drama in the 10th and final movement, “The Great Gate of Kiev,” complete with powerful strings, winds, percussion (listen to the timpani!) and the great finishing touch: the chimes! They sound like church bells, and it was the perfect way to top this crescendo.
After conductor Riccardo Muti relaxed his arms and the symphony finished playing, the audience quickly stood and cheered at the Community Arts Music Association of Santa Barbara concert. The applause lasted a long time, but those who stayed to the end were treated to a short encore.
Mussorgsky originally wrote “Pictures from an Exhibition” for piano in 1874. Maurice Ravel orchestrated it after Mussorgsky’s death.
The music was inspired by an exhibit honoring artist and architect Victor Hartmann. Critic Vladimir Stassov organized the exhibit, which inspired Mussorgsky to create piano pieces based on 11 of Hartmann’s works of art.
Wednesday’s Chicago Symphony concert began with two Beethoven works — the Coriolan Overture, Opus 62, and Beethoven’s playful Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Opus 93. Then the orchestra produced sheer beauty with Anatoly Lyadov’s “The Enchanted Lake, Opus 62.”
Throughout the evening, the Chicago Symphony stood out for its precision, dynamics and powerful tones. The orchestra adds layers of colors to its music while still emphasizing the melodies.
In addition to the magic of the music, it was a joy to watch Maestro Muti in action, sometimes gently coaxing various sections of the orchestra and other times emphasizing the drama of the moment.