Michael's Music Review Monday, Vol. 7

As you all noticed, the highly anticipated seventh volume of "Michael's Music Monday" was not posted last week, as scheduled.  I was in San Francisco, California with extremely limited internet access.  However, I met with my cousins.  Big things are in store for The Daily Serge, as my cousin-in-law (is that an actual "title"?) is a blogger himself.  The Daily Serge was one of the first topics of conversation.  Please know my intention was to post as planned, but that was unfortunately just not a reality.

Ironically, I attended a concert that Saturday evening.  This program will probably phase you, especially or unless you appear to like classical music, as it's not a typical (or modern) ensemble.  I saw one of the nation's greatest orchestras perform live.  On the program was Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 14 and Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

I at one time had the box set of Shostakovich's complete symphonic collections, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich.  I did not listen to the fourteenth symphony.  This concert (not performance) reminded me of this.

You've probably heard excerpts of Pictures at an Exhibition.  Featured on Civilization Revolution (available of XBox 360), this piece is a staple in the symphonic repertoire (especially within the Russian symphonic community [see "The Five"]).  Night on Bald Mountain is equally popular, if not more well known.  Used in Disney's Fantisia, the piece is short, sweet, and to the point.

Mussorgksy initially wrote Pictures for piano, failing to orchestrate the composition himself.  The French composer, Maurice Ravel, grabbed the suite by the horns in 1922.  Ravel is known for doing similar things with his own works.  Look into his piano turned orchestra piece, La  Valse.  Other composers orchestrated Pictures, but none have been taken as seriously as Ravel's standard orchestration.

The work is light and tight, at a length not quite that of a traditional symphony, yet longer than a symphonic poem.  The longest of the ten movements does not exceed six minutes, but packs about 1.21 gigawatts of power in its brief delivery.  With stark contrasts, Pictures is a "gateway" piece into the world of classical music.

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