from Pictures at an exhibition
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (1839 – 1881) was a Russian composer. He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period. He strove to achieve a uniquely Russian musical identity, often in deliberate defiance of the established conventions of Western music.
Many of his works were inspired by Russian history, Russian folklore, and other national themes. Such works include the opera Boris Godunov and the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.
The Great Gate of Kiev is a musical presentation of what Mussorgsky saw at a St. Petersburg’s art exhibition. This art exposition was for the Russian painter and architect, Viktor Hartmann, who had recently died at the age of 39. Mussorgsky takes his listener around the presentation of Hartmann’s paintings and allows the listener to see in music what he saw at the exhibition.
There are four movements, which contain different groups of Hartmann’s paintings. The four movements are musically separated by what Mussorgsky calls promenades, which one can merely call traveling-music. The traveling-music is music created by him as he went from one room of paintings to the next. The last musical painting is The Great Gate of Kiev.