Day 13: Pictures at an Exhibition Melted My Soul

We didn’t have a rehearsal this morning. Instead, we had a masterclass on Arts Leadership hosted by From the Top. It was very much…a masterclass, but I was really excited about all of the resources they gave to us for future projects. As they said this morning, they are a radio show, but they are so much more than that. Basically, what I took away, was that they love to support young musicians pursue lofty musical goals on and off the stage. You can read more about them here.

After the masterclass, we went in for rehearsal. Two and a half hours on Pictures. Man that was long. I’ll be honest—it was really hard for me to stay focused throughout the rehearsal. But it was entirely worth it when we came to the end. The last movement of Pictures is epic, to say the least. The Great Gate of Kiev is second only to The Pines of Rome in my book in terms of epicness (and honestly, it’s growing on me and might surpass Pines in the next few weeks). Point is, it’s big, it’s loud, and it’s beautiful. When I had first listened to it, it was a bit bombastic for me, and I thought it was kind of temperamental (it has some strange interjections of contemplative quiet music in the middle of the majesty). I knew a basic background to the piece, but this rehearsal honestly changed everything I thought I knew.

Just about at the end of The Great Gate, David Robertson stops us to try to explain what his vision for this particular section was. After a few seconds, though, he begins delving deep into the piece’s history. One (crucial) detail that I hadn’t known about the piece was that Mussorgsky wrote the piece as a response to the death of his good friend, Viktor Hartmann, a painter (Hartmann’s work inspired the individual movements of the piece, thus the title: “Pictures at an Exhibition”). Robertson then related a story of his own very similar to the story of Mussorgsky and Hartmann. But what he pointed out was the significance of the contemplative interjections in the final movement. What Robertson equates them to is a simple thought. He views them as Mussorgsky’s way of remembering, “I love the work of my friend! It is so beautiful and inspiring and…he will never hear this piece.”

That right there floored me. I actually almost couldn’t play when he began again because I was on the verge of tears. Somehow knowing that interpretation, where every bar of music meant something so profound and nuanced, just made the ending an unbelievable level of emotional for me. That’s an experience I’m not going to soon forget.

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