Inspirations: Mussorgsky

To understand some art properly you need to understand the references to previous works. Artists can take inspiration from nature but also from other art of all forms and from history or current affairs. In this new series ‘Inspirations’ I will be looking at some art which is an important reference point for other creatives as well as some other forms of art inspired by sketches and paintings.

In this first post of the series I look at Modest Mussorgsky, a classical composer who took inspiration for his music from Russian history and folklore and later from art.

Mussorgsky was good friends with architect and painter Victor Hartmann. Upon Hartmann’s death Mussorgsky composed ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ as a tribute to his works.


This simple sketch of ballet costumes was sufficient to inspire sixth movement ‘Ballet of the unhatched chicks’ Listen to it below:

Knowing the title and seeing the sketch helps the listener to visualise baby chicks running around still in their shells. It would be interesting to compare to the music for the ballet (Trillby).


The final movement and probably most played is inspired by Hartmann’s plan for a city gate. You can hear the grandeur and peeling of bells and almost an entire story telling of the peoples movements through the gate.

The gates of course would have been inspired by other architecture and the music could go onto inspire more paintings or music. Progressive rock band, Emerson were inspired, it has to be said though listening to just a few minuets is an endurance test.

You can follow me here on WordPress or on Facebook . Checkout the rest of my posts using the categories on the left. If you want to more Mussorgsky this video is a good place to start.

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