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Program Notes

Each week, thousands of San Francisco Symphony concert-goers open their programs to read about the drama, the passion, and the inspiration behind the music they’re hearing. You can read our critically acclaimed program notes online one week prior to select concerts.

MUSSORGSKY/RAVEL: Pictures at an Exhibition

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was a bonafide Russophile who could not help but respond to the kaleidoscopic imagery of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Ravel was not the first to orchestrate the Pictures, but his 1922 version seamlessly remains a model for technical brilliance, imaginative insight, and concern for the original composer. The pictures are by Victor Hartmann, a close and important friend to Mussorgsky (1839-81) whose death at only thirty‑nine in the summer of 1873 caused the composer profound and tearing grief. Pictures at an Exhibition charts the course of visitors strolling through a gallery of Hartmann’s various paintings, sketches, and architectural fantasies.

(July 2019)