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 Expect No Bells - Moussorgsky's Pictures for string orchestra

On March 22nd 1010, the Jacobs School of Music’s Chamber Orchestra premiered Atar Arad’s arrangement for string orchestra of Pictures at an Exhibition by Moussorgsky under the baton of Uriel Segal. Arad wrote the program notes for this performance:

Expect No Bells

Not long ago I made an attempt at a string quintet arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition. Over a glass of wine (or was it two?) Maestro Segal wondered if it wouldn’t be a good idea to write a version for string orchestra as well. Pictures at an Exhibition inspired a great number of arrangements. Working on mine, I did my best to forget these, especially Ravel’s, the one we all have in our ears and hearts. In order to preserve some of the beautiful simplicity and economic writing of Moussorgsky’s own 1874 piano version I tried, as well as I could, to be diligently faithful to it, keeping the voices in their original range. Whereas the spectacular Ravel orchestration can be compared to elaborate, nuanced and rich grand oil paintings, Moussorgsky’s piano score looks more like rough-penciled sketches, drawn so hastily as to not divert from the mere essential. Accordingly, dynamic markings are scarce and are indicative of the composer’s inclination toward contrasts rather than detailed, minute and frequent nuances. The present version tries to enhance the primal aura of the original with the melodious, deep, continuous and vibrant core sonority of a string ensemble. Not as bold as Moussorgsky’s piano (sorry!) or colorful as Ravel’s orchestra (sorry again), all I wanted and hoped for is to have another look at the “pictures”, this time with a different eye.

To obtain a score and parts of "Pictures", contact Atar Arad at aarad@indiana.edu


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