On Saturday, March 27, 2010, the Augusta Symphony Orchestra and the Kennebec Valley Art Association collaborated on a multimedia concert featuring the famous Mussorgsky composition, “Pictures at an Exhibition”. The performance took place at the Hope Baptist Church on Western Avenue in Manchester.
In a unique twist, during the performance of the “Pictures at an Exhibition”, art works from the KVAA’s roster of member artists was projected over the orchestra, while other artists created art on site inspired by the music during the concert. Photographer Keith Spiro has made photographs taken during the event available on his business site; so if you missed the event, or just want to remember it, click here.
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Also on the program was the Brahms “Double Concerto” for violin and cello, featuring the return of the sensational Kinga Augustyn as the violinist, with the cello part being played by Maren Askins. Ms. Askins is a pupil of famed cellist Paul Ross, who is also the conductor of the orchestra. Ms. Augustyn was the electrifying soloist for the ASO’s performance of the Karlowicz Violin Concerto during its 2008-09 season.
“Pictures at an Exhibition”, one of the most beloved pieces in the classical repertoire, was written in 1874 by Modest Mussorgsky as a piano piece of programmatic music, that is, music that has a story or program behind it. In this case, “Pictures” was a posthumous tribute to the famous Russian artist, Viktor Hartmann, whose early death at 39 stunned the Russian art world. It depicts an art lover walking from one painting to the next, with the intervals filled in by the stirring and instantly recognizable “Promenade”. Among the paintings are the “Great Gate of Kiev” and “The Catacombs.”
The piano writing is so evocative and colorful that it has captured the imagination of a large number of musicians throughout its history. Among those who have orchestrated the work are Leopold Stokowski, Sir Henry Wood, and, most famously, Maurice Ravel. In fact, nearly three dozen arrangers, conductors and composers have re-interpreted Mussorgsky’s original masterpiece for classical ensembles, and many dozens more for jazz and other popular genres. For the ASO concert, the conductor has turned to the first-ever rescoring by the now obscure Russian conductor and musician, Mikhail Tushmalov.
The Harlow Gallery has a venerable history in Hallowell; it is owned and operated by the Kennebec Valley Art Association, a membership based non-profit founded in 1958. The Harlow Gallery connects and celebrates art, artists and community. “Raising the profile of our vibrant art community here in the Augusta area is one of our core missions,” commented Deb Fahy, Executive Director of Hallowell’s Harlow Gallery. “When we were approached by the Augusta Symphony Orchestra to collaborate on a joint project meshing both the visual and musical arts, we all saw it as an excellent opportunity to advance both organizations.”<
“Economic studies, not only in Maine, but throughout the country, too, have shown that a dynamic arts community brings considerable benefits to a city and region. Downtowns are more vital and energized, plus they are a magnet for tourism,” according to Michael Conley, president of the ASO’s Board of Directors. “By working with the Kennebec Valley Arts Association, our orchestra and the Harlow will each be exposed to completely new audiences. This will hopefully lead to future projects.” Augusta Symphony Orchestra has its roots dating back to the 1920s. In its current incarnation under the direction of Paul Ross, the ASO performs four concerts per season, and it is enjoying a growing audience base playing not only the works of the classical repertory, but also performing with the Maine Youth Orchestra and hosting a very popular annual Messiah Sing-along.