The stage was festooned with stage art by Maja Bosen, whose interests include “the interconnectivity of living things”; flanked by large screens projecting fanciful lithographs by Philharmonic bassoonist John Gaudette; and accented with video art by multimedia artist Galina Shevchenko. Upon entering the large room where the concert took place, one inhaled the subtle aromas of a “scent sculpture” by master perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. Delicious and unusual sweet confections were provided gratis, the audience instructed not to eat them until directed, and during Pictures, were so advised: from Fancy Plants Café, came a yummy violet-cashew cheesecake; from Chocolate Uzma, a rich and spicy dark chocolate truffle.
The mélange of talent and titillation was a sensory feast that accented and accompanied the music.
This remarkable presentation represented “a unique multi-sensory performance.” Jeff Yang arranged and reinvented this classical music gem, based on the (now lost) paintings of Viktor Hartmann, for only two players , yet for eight instruments, 7 played by Yang himself, switching seamlessly between strings and recorders!
Throughout the performance, audiences experienced the instantly recognizable music paired with delightful animated lithographs by John Gaudette based on the paintings of Hartmann, a painter, architect and designer. Mussorgsky viewed an exhibit of Hartman’s work, which provided much of the inspiration for the piece. Although the 400+ pieces in the retrospective viewed by Mussorgsky are no longer available, Russian art critic Vladimir Stasov, who organized the exhibition and to whom Pictures was dedicated, has left descriptions of them for posterity. For the program at City Winery, we had the clever images of Gaudette and Shevchenko to entice our imagination.
Pictures at an Exhibition is probably Mussorgsky’s most popular and performed pieces of work, conceived for solo piano. However, the more famous and popular version is the arrangement for a full orchestra by Ravel- here reduced again by Yang.
The suite/cycle is comprised of 10 movements, (plus short interludes) linked to the artwork, so that it reproduces a viewer’s progress through an art exhibition. Played in succession without pause, set off and unified by the gorgeous Promenade, and ending with the stunning Great Gate of Kiev, Yang’s efforts at arrangement left the “bones” of the piece intact, and he bemused the audience with his heroic and ambitious multi-instrumental display. The most significant aspect of each Promenade– the fact that it has its own characteristic within the cycle, involving length, key, dynamics and/or emotional expression remained substantively unaltered.
Lakisova on piano was a force to be reckoned with: with an unerring feel and a virtuoso touch, she created the framework of hope, elucidation, and triumph upon which all of the technical pinnings of the piece depend.