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Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition': A Timeless Masterpiece, My Lifelong Companion

Music has the extraordinary power to shape our lives, evoke deep emotions, and leave a lasting imprint on our hearts. For me, this power found its zenith in Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," a musical masterpiece that I've had the privilege to connect with at various stages of my life. The impact of this composition is not only profound but also everlasting, and I invite you to embark on a journey through its magic.

Modest Mussorgsky, a Russian composer known for his distinctive style and avant-garde approach to music, left an indelible mark on the world of classical composition. His unbridled creativity and the raw emotional power of his compositions set him apart as an artistic genius. Mussorgsky's work is celebrated not only for its technical brilliance but also for its ability to connect with the soul.

My first encounter with Mussorgsky's work was a revelation. As a young musician, I was just beginning to explore the vast realm of classical music. It was during this formative period that I stumbled upon "Pictures at an Exhibition." The experience was nothing short of transformative. The music opened my ears to a new world of expression, and I was captivated by its ability to paint vivid images with sound.

As I delved deeper into my musical education, Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" remained a constant companion. Its timeless quality meant that, regardless of my own evolution as a musician, the composition continued to inspire and resonate with me. It was not just a piece of music but a trusted friend, guiding me through various chapters of my life.

The concept of "Pictures at an Exhibition" is nothing short of remarkable. Each movement of the suite represents a different piece of artwork. Mussorgsky invites the listener to wander through an art exhibition, with each note capturing the essence of a specific painting or sculpture. It's a journey through sound and art, a tour of the imagination, and a connection to visual art that transcends the canvas.

Part of what made it special to me as a teenager is there is a version recorded by the progressive rock group, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer. My dad had shared this with me during the time I was first studying the piece. So, I have those connections alongside my more formal music connections.

Last month I had the pleasure of revisiting this piece as a professional musician for the first time. Because of my history with this piece, I was moved to tears each time we played the second to the last movement into the last movement. Tears of absolute joy were streaming down my face at each performance.

Life is busy. We often get lost in the day to day never ending parade of tasks. Music never fails to bring me back to viewing the bigger picture. Pictures at an Exhibition helped show me why I do what I do. Music connects all areas and eras of my life. It helps provide meaning to chaos.

I want to share this feeling with my students. Each piece we learn together could become a favorite for them. Maybe they will hear it while studying for a very important exam in college and get a boost of confidence because of the fond memories of overcoming difficult passages when they were a viola student.

These connections are why music and teaching especially is my passion. This is what lights up my brain the most. I hope each and every student I work with will take at least a piece of that inspiration with them.

Written byChristina Mixemong (co-owner/viola and violin faculty) through Dynamic Music Studios in Coralville, Iowa.

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