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Mussorgsky’s 'Pictures at an Exhibition' to feature student pictures Saturday

By TOM JACKSON • Apr 25, 2019 at 9:00 PM

SANDUSKY — Few classic pieces of music have tied sound and vision so closely together as Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

The Firelands Symphony Orchestra will perform the piece Saturday at its season-ending concert at Sandusky State Theatre.

And the performance will feature an art exhibit of works done by local students.

Modest Mussorgsky’s original suite of piano pieces in 1874 was inspired by an exhibit of artwork by his good friend Viktor Hartmann, who had died suddenly.      

By the time Mussorgsky died in 1881, his piece, now a well-known warhorse, had still not been published. 

“Pictures at an Exhibition” eventually took off, both as a piano piece and in versions that were written for orchestra concerts. The most famous orchestration, one the Firelands Symphony will use, was done by the brilliant French composer Maurice Ravel (of “Bolero” fame.)

Seeking to recreate the link between the music and art, local arts education promoter Carolyn Culbertson, of Huron, brought art supplies, a recording of the piece, a picture of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and other materials to the Sandusky schools’ after-school Junior Arts Academy. She invited the students, ages 8-10, to do artwork inspired by the music.

Culbertson said she believes strongly in arts education and creativity.

“I really do believe imagination is their future. It is the beginning of literacy,” she said.

Artworks were produced by 55 students, and Culbertson hunted for frames in local Goodwill stores so each piece of art could have a gold frame. The works have been displayed at Mr. Smith’s Coffee House and the Erie County Community Foundation.

They’ll be shown off at the Sandusky State Theater the night of the performance. The students and one parent each have been invited to attend the concert free as guests of the orchestra, and the students will be brought onstage during intermission, said Laurie Korobkin, executive director of the orchestra.

Of course, the concert isn’t just about art.

“Pictures at an Exhibition” is such a well-loved piece of music, it’s been tackled by an amazing range of performers, including rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer and jazz legend Duke Ellington.

Firelands Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Carl Topilow, will be playing Ravel’s acclaimed version.

“It’s just a great piece of music. It has unbelievable variety,” Topilow said. “It’s really quite astounding the way he leads  you to this great little journey, this trip through the art museum.”

The show, devoted to “Russian Masterpieces,” also will include the “Capriccio Italien” of Tchaikovsky and “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” by Sergei Rachmaninoff.   

The Rachmaninoff performance will feature Gavin George, a 15-year-old piano prodigy and a native of Port Clinton.

Despite his young age, George already has done numerous concerto performances with orchestras around the world, playing works by composers such as Mendelssohn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann. To learn more, visit www.gavingeorge.com.

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IF YOU GO…

WHAT: “Russian Masterpieces” show by Firelands Symphony Orchestra, featuring “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

WHERE: Sandusky State Theatre, 107 Columbus Ave.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

TICKETS: 419-621-4800 or firelandssymphony.com/tickets.

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