Pictures at an Exhibition

Pictures at an Exhibition

by Anna Harwell Celenza, Joann E. Kitchel
     
 

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When his friend Victor suddenly dies, composer Mussorgsky is deeply saddened. But, with the help of his friends, and through his own music, Modest finds a way to keep Victor's spirit alive.

Readers of all ages will enjoy the inspirational story behind the composition of Pictures at an Exhibition. Bright, colorful illustrations incorporate elements of Russian folk

Overview

When his friend Victor suddenly dies, composer Mussorgsky is deeply saddened. But, with the help of his friends, and through his own music, Modest finds a way to keep Victor's spirit alive.

Readers of all ages will enjoy the inspirational story behind the composition of Pictures at an Exhibition. Bright, colorful illustrations incorporate elements of Russian folk art and traditional symbols. View pages from artist JoAnn Kitchel's notebook for explanations of the symbols and see her pencil-sketch research of the Russian culture.

This handsome book and CD recording provide enrichment for the whole family.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Celenza and Kitchel (The Farewell Symphony) once again reprise a segment of music history for the grade-school crowd. This story, set in 19th-century Russia, details the pivotal friendship among composer Modest Mussorgsky, architect Victor Hartmann and art critic Vladimir Stasov. Mussorgsky sinks into despair at Hartmann's sudden death, which he overcomes only when he visits a memorial exhibit of more than 400 of Hartmann's works. Mussorgsky, inspired by the drawings and paintings, composes the titular piano suite. While the length of the text serves the target audience, Celenza sometimes oversimplifies both the language (e.g., "Victor dreamed of decorating his homeland with fantastic towers and gates") and the storytelling (" `The Great Gate of Kiev' [a picture] stirred Modest's soul. `Oh Victor,' he sighed, `This was to be your greatest achievement-a glorious monument to heroic Russia and almighty God!' "). Kitchel demonstrates Mussorgsky's creative process in showing characters and scenes from Hartmann's work (e.g., Baba Yaga, canary costumes designed for a ballet, a whimpering beggar) emerge from Mussorgsky's piano on flowing blue waves. However intriguing the conception, the execution pales: the figures verge on the cartoonish, and the colors-orangey pinks, gaudy purples and yellow greens-vibrate discordantly. The illustrations seem pitched to an audience younger than the sophistication suggested by the text's themes. A CD of piano and orchestral versions of the piece is included. Ages 8-11. (Feb.)
Children's Literature
Mussorgsky's composition Pictures at an Exhibition is a concert perennial. Particular paintings by his friend Victor Hartmann inspired the composer to write the piece. Celenza not only describes these pictures, but also fills in the story of how the music came to be written. When Mussorgsky and his friends Hartmann and Vladimir Stasov were young, they all had grand ideas. Hartmann's sudden death in 1873 was a great shock from which the composer could not seem to recover. But Stasov arranged and took him to an exhibition of Hartmann's work, which changed him. Celenza makes the pictures seem to rise from Mussorgsky's piano as he creates the music that has made his friend's art immortal. Kitchel's decorative style utilizes heavy borders with traditional Russian motifs surrounding scenes that provide the visual narrative. Although the emotions depicted tend to be less melodramatic than the text, they include details of the times and the paintings, which add significantly to the tale. The author has added extensive background notes. For a richer experience, a London CD of the composition played in a piano version by Vladimir Ashkenazy and an orchestral version by the Philharmonia Orchestra is included. 2003, Charlesbridge,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-From the author and illustrator team of The Farewell Symphony (Charlesbridge, 2000) comes a new gem for music lovers. Celenza brings to life three Russian friends-composer Modest Mussorgsky, architect Victor Hartmann, and art critic Vladimir Stasov. When Hartmann dies, Mussorgsky is plunged into despair and cannot create music. Concerned about him, Stasov prods him into attending a posthumous exhibit of Victor's artwork. The paintings inspire the composer's musical tribute to his friend, "Pictures at an Exhibition." The story is based on many primary-source documents-correspondence, an autobiographical essay, and an obituary-but Celenza weaves in a depth of emotion that makes these individuals' lives unforgettable. This same attention to detail is evident in Kitchel's illustrations; not only does the artist capture the energy and movement of the music in her vibrant watercolor-and-ink illustrations, but she also confines them within symbolic borders of traditional Russian and Ukrainian folk-art motifs. They harmonize well with the accompanying CD recording that includes both piano and orchestral versions of Mussorgsky's famous composition.-Laurie Edwards, West Shore School District, Camp Hill, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781570914928
Publisher:
Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
Publication date:
02/28/2003
Edition description:
BOOK & CD
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
10.43(w) x 10.28(h) x 0.41(d)
Lexile:
640L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Anna Harwell Celenza is a musicologist and the author of several books for adults and children regarding music history and the history of art. Her children’s books include THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY, PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION, GERSHWIN'S RHAPSODY IN BLUE, and VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS. Anna lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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