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vfjo / gaffigan / Zedginidze

Bartók, Mussorgsky

The outstandingly gifted young Georgian pianist Tsotne Zedginidze joins James Gaffigan and the VFJO for Bartók’s fierce First Piano Concerto, followed by Ravel’s orchestral transcription of the Mussorgsky masterpiece which began life as a virtuoso piano suite, Pictures at an Exhibition.


BÉLA BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Piano Concerto No. 1 Sz. 83

Pictures at an Exhibition, orchestration M. Ravel

Bartók’s First Piano Concerto shocked its first audience in 1927 with its percussive dissonance – especially its tone clusters (chordal pile-ups), inspired by a 1925 encounter with the experimental American composer, Henry Cowell. Syncopation and repeat hammerings of a single note dominate the Allegro moderato. Strings drop out for the subdued central Andante with its Stravinskian ostinato rhythms and snaking woodwind counterpoint. This tips without a break into the Allegro molto finale, which hurtles furiously to an abrupt end. Originally an 1874 solo piano suite, and later transcribed into colourful orchestral creations by Ravel, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was inspired by him visiting an exhibition of the works of his late friend, the artist Viktor Hartmann. Preceded and punctuated by ‘Promenades’ depicting Mussorgsky’s own heavy physique as he walks around, its ten character pieces begin with clumsily loping ‘Gnomus,’ believed to evoke a design for a nutcracker with large teeth. Further ‘pictures’ include ‘The Old Castle’ – a medieval troubadour – and ‘The Catacombs,’ whose sombre brass theme is based on the promenades. The climax is a majestic depiction of Hartmann’s bell-turret-topped design for ‘The Great Gate of Kiev.’