Pictures at an Exhibition

It is known that Mussorgsky created "Pictures at an Exhibition" under a strong impression of the Viktor Hartmann’s exhibition. It was that impression and the composer's personal perception that became the program of his plays and determined their nature and content.

One of the most interesting works with "Pictures" was Kandinsky’s version created for Friedrich Theatre in Dessau (1928). His complex stage composition presented an interaction of scenery, music, color, light, geometric shapes, and plastics. Kandinsky saw the future in the synthesis of arts and the engine of this synthesis was an innermost desire: "...each art is separated from the other, but on the other hand, they are combined in their innermost tendencies. Thus, it is found that every art has its own strength which can not be substituted for another. Therefore, we finally arrive at the encroachment of the power of the various arts upon one another. From this inner tendency will arise, in the future, the truly monumental art" ("On the Spiritual in Art", 1910). The most natural embodiment of this idea was a "stage composition, consisting of three "movements" - musical, scenic and dance movements.

"Pictures at an Exhibition" occupy a special place among the Kandinsky’s compositions. It was the only time when he agreed to use a readymade score. He was driven by that very innermost desire he heard in music. "By no means was it "program" music. If it "shows" something anyway, then it is not the pictures themselves, but only the experiences of Mussorgsky that far exceed the "content" of painting and find a purely musical form. This was why I gladly accepted an invitation to stage the musical piece which I received from the then manager of Friedrich Theatre in Dessau..."

On April 4, 1928, the premiere at the Friedrich Theater, Dessau, was a tremendous success. The production was rather cumbersome as the sets were supposed to move and the hall lighting was to change constantly in keeping with Kandinsky’s scrupulous instructions. The music was played on the piano. Unfortunately, the original stage sets have not survived and all that has remained are the sixteen watercolors of Kandinsky and the piano reduction with an instruction as to what was to go on stage.

Mikhail Rudy - Festival de la Vezere, 12 july 2011

Wassily Kandinsky. Picture XVI. The Great Gate of Kiev, 1928
Picture XVI. The Great Gate of Kiev, 1928
Wassily Kandinsky. Picture II, Gnomus, 1928
Picture II, Gnomus, 1928
Wassily Kandinsky. Picture IV The Old Castle (Das alte Schloss), 1928
Picture IV The Old Castle (Das alte Schloss), 1928
Wassily Kandinsky. Picture VII. Bydlo, 1928
Picture VII. Bydlo, 1928
Wassily Kandinsky. Picture X. Samuel Goldenberg, 1928
Picture X. Samuel Goldenberg, 1928
Wassily Kandinsky. Picture XII. The Market at Limoges (Limoges. Le march?. La grande nouvelle), 1928
Picture XII. The Market at Limoges (Limoges. Le march?. La grande nouvelle) , 1928
Wassily Kandinsky. Picture XIII. Catacombae. Sepulcrum romanum, 1928
Picture XIII. Catacombae. Sepulcrum romanum , 1928
Wassily Kandinsky. Picture XV. The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Hutte der Baba-Jaga), 1928
Picture XV. The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Hutte der Baba-Jaga) , 1928