Michael Russ, Emeritus Dean and National Teaching Fellow, University of Huddersfield, UK

Returning to the Exhibition: Mussorgsky’s Pictures Reconsidered.

A little over twenty years ago, just at the moment the Soviet Union was coming to an end, I wrote a little handbook on Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Looking back, although I was not naïve enough to simply purvey the Soviet construction of Mussorgsky as a great man of the people, my observation that Mussorgsky was ‘the only true musical populist’ was certainly conditioned by ideologies best let go. This paper takes a fresh look at both the work and the exhibition that gave rise to it. It outlines how our understanding of Mussorgsky and arguably his most famous work have shifted in the last twenty years. It concludes by also setting briefly the work in the context of other multi-movement piano works (Schumann, Carnaval) and works that take their inspiration from works of art (Liszt and Respighi).