Mussorgsky Mondays – A Night of Mussorgsky, courtesy of the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh, NC


Sometimes life deals you up happy little coincidences.

For instance, days after placing a novel based on one of your favorite pieces of music of all time with a fantastic publisher, one of your best friends calls and says “Hey, the North Carolina Symphony is playing Pictures at an Exhibition in two weeks. Wanna go?”

The answer? Well, of course.

Thanks to Alisa Hassinger for a great weekend and getting us our excellent box seats. Thanks also to Jewell Carr and others that held down the fort in my absence.

So, this was my third live performance of Pictures at an Exhibition.

The first was years ago, in Columbus, GA. (Yes, they have a symphony, and they’re quite good.) I went with my good friends Jen and Ben Frank and enjoyed the show, though at the time, I was only familiar with the Emerson, Lake & Palmer prog rock version. Still, loved the music, and a seed was planted.

The second was a last minute spontaneous drive to uptown Charlotte by myself to see the Charlotte Symphony play the piece when I was still in the midst of writing the novel in 2011. That was a great evening, and another great performance.

But last night (29 Mar 2014) was the one for the books. After spending years immersed in this piece of music, to hear the conductor come out and guarantee a “picturesque” evening was enough to get my heart racing. His description of the paintings coming alive in the music, his confidence that they had this one down, and his proclamation that Mussorgsky’s original piano piece coupled with Ravel’s orchestration made for an almost perfect piece of music all fanned the flames at my core.

And they hadn’t even played a note yet.

The trumpet solo on “Promenade,” the tight syncopation of “Gnomus,” the beautiful saxophone of “The Old Castle,” the intricate woodwinds in “Tuileries,” the crescendo/decrescendo of “Bydlo,” the near impossible feat of pulling off the “Ballet of Unhatched Chicks”, the literal lows and highs of “Goldenberg and Schmuyle,” the flight of fancy in “The Marketplace at Limoges,” the depths of despair in “The Catacombs,” the 100 years too early rock and roll of “Baba Yaga’s Hut,” and the triumph of “The Great Gates of Kiev” all came through with brilliance and passion. Well worth the drive and I’d do it again tonight if they’d play it again.

It’s rare in life that a person gets to experience “live and in person” something they are truly passionate about. After four years of working on The Mussorgsky Riddle, to see this performance was truly a celebration and as Mussorgsky “promenaded” his way through “The Bogatyr Gates” last night, I walked right through the Gates as well.

Also, not sure if they picked this piece for this date or not, but (as followers of my blog already know) two weeks ago was Modest Mussorgsky’s 175th birthday and this June will be the 140th anniversary of his completing the original score. So happy birthday again, and happy anniversary, Mr. Mussorgsky. They did you proud last night.

To the North Carolina Symphony, thank you for such a great performance. I’ll be back. Perhaps a little Rimsky-Korsakov??? 😉


About Darin Kennedy

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