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Get the Picture

Listen your way through the works of composers inspired by well-known paintings and poems. Pianist Alicia de Larrocha will perform Goyescas, by Enrique Granados, a musical transcription of Francisco Goya’s paintings. This week’s music includes Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler (Matthias the Painter), and Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead. Many of these musical works have gone on to be the inspiration for new artistic creations. Art and music are one!

Program 1

Begin hearing your way through plenty of famous paintings and poems. Listen to self-portraits of visual artists like Francisco Goya, through his own fingerings on the guitar. Enrique Granados illustrates the developing passion between two lovers in Goyescas, that causes the musical canvas to rise in flames. 

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (excerpt)
Ashkenazy, p.
Lon 414386

Granados: Goyescas (excerpts)
de Larrocha, p.
RCA 60408
17:19, 9:42

Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Pintor from 24 Caprichos De Goya
Afshar, g.
Summit 167

Debussy: La Mer
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Monteux
RCA 61890

Program 2

In the 30s, Matthias Grünewald, a German painter was debating joining the war or staying put and painting instead. This painter was an inspiration for a piece you'll hear during this hour. Listen to the sounds of nature - Venus emerges from the shell as a newborn, and the blowing winds keep her company along with the energy of youthful creatures surrounding her.


Respighi: Trittico botticelliano
Orpheus Chamber Ensemble
DG 437533
5:30, 8:32, 5:23

Hindemith: Mathis der Maler
San Francisco Symphony/Blomstedt
Lon 421523
8:16, 18:30

Satie: Gymnopédie
Thibaudet, p.
Decca 470290

Program 3

Composers score their acquaintances for orchestra, as Virgil Thomson has done here with Bugles and Birds - A Portrait of Pablo Picasso. This piece is the musical transcript of Thomson's silent meeting with Picasso. Gunther Schuller musters a modern jazz quartet to emit the  sounds of paintings by Paul Klee, which include a vulture's view of a dry Arab village, and Bill explains how this is done with aluminum foil. Bill also describes how one famous painting was converted into a poem, and later into Stephen Paulus's musical piece. 

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (excerpt)
Ashkenazy, p.
Lon 414386

Thomson: Bugles and Birds - A Portrait of Pablo Picasso
Jacobs, p.
None 79024

Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountain- I, III & IV
RCA 61957

Schuller: Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra/Dorati
Merc 434329
7:29, 13:34

Paulus: Air on Seurat
D. Lewis, vc.; C. Lewis, p.
Gasparo 301

Livingston/Evans: Mona Lisa
Orchestra/Baxter; Nat King Cole
Capitol 72435-28295-2-1
Purchase Similar

Program 4

With a fascination in death, Bill brings you Four Tone Poems After Arnold Böcklin, a piece based on the Böcklin's "The Isle of the Dead." Rachmaninov follows in this trend of fascination, and writes his own orchestral rendition to sound out the same painting. But concluding the hour is Debussy's light and flittery piece, emitting the sounds of Watteau's painting, L'Embarquement de Cythère.

Reger: Four Tone Poems after Arnold Böcklin
Chan 8794

Rachmaninov: Isle of the Dead
Philadelphia Orchestra/Ormandy
RCA 9026680222

Debussy: L’isle Joyeaux
Thibaudet, p.
Lon 452022

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (excerpt)
Ashkenazy, p.
Lon 414386

Program 5

Two composers, Ravel and Mussorgsky, have their own renditions of Pictures at an Exhibition, and Bill explains the differences between their styles, both subtle and conspicuous. If one were to paint a picture based on Ravel's Pictures, a slow-moving oxcart would only be visible at a distance. Whereas Mussorgsky provides his listeners with a view that is close and so personal that one may find him or herself in the front seat of the cart, thrashing up and down to the rhythm of the hard cobblestone street. 

 Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (excerpts)
Ashkenazy, p.
Lon 414386
17:13, :41

Mussorgsky, arr. Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition
Lon 400051
:29, 33:31


The Exploring Music streaming website is supported by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and the Richard P. and Susan Kiphart Family.  
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