Last evening I got to hear the Dallas Symphony Orchestra perform "Pictures At an Exhibition" conducted by the Russian guest Andrey Boreyko. The music was clear and light, rich, dark and frightening, bold and triumphant. I liked Andrey Boreyko's interpretation very much. Felt like I had been wandering in the woods of a Grimm fairy tale without my bread crumbs. I sat above the stage level, which was good for seeing the harps and bells and other unusual featured instruments. It makes me happy when the tuba player gets such rousing applause!
My college watercolor professor, Gail H. Butt, Jr., would have been eighty-two this weekend. In my drawing, painting, and composition classes with Professor Butt, I heard his lecture about "rich, delicate, and bold" many times, usually reinforced with recordings of classical and jazz music, and the smell of his cigar.
Scott Cantrell's review in the Dallas Morning News comes straight from my UNL watercolor class:
Rounding out the concert was a vividly characterized Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition, with great care over gradations of volume and color. At big moments, Mr. Boreyko was even sensitive enough to factor in the generous reverberation of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.
The Lincoln Symphony Orchestra performed "Pictures At an Exhibition" for an assembly at Millard Lefler Junior High in 1970. Made quite an impression on me! Then in 1972, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer had a rock version of Mussorgsky's composition. I have to admit that my favorite album in 1972 was "Fragile" by Yes. If I had to listen to much of the ELP or of "Roundabout" today I would get a needle-sharp sinus headache! We won't even consider Procul Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale", or the Moody Blues' "Knights in White Satin".
Mussorgsky was Russian, so his folktale inspirations are Slavic, not Germanic like them good old Grimm Boys of the consulting firm Hansel and Gretel, LLP. The wise and powerful Baba Yaga, crone/witch/earth goddess, is a fascinating archetype. Plus, she has architectural implications. Baba Yaga is sometimes cruel, and other times kind, but she always lives in a house that walks about on chicken legs. I wish my condo could go wandering around the neighborhood on skinny legs in fluffy slippers when I have insomnia.
So nice to learn there's a reason for the chicken legs:
A "cabin on chicken legs with no windows and no doors" in which Baba Yaga dwells sounds like pure fantasy. In fact, this is an ordinary construction popular among hunter-nomadic peoples of Siberia of Uralic (Finno-Ugric) and Tungusic families. This was an ingenious invention to preserve supplies against animals during long absence. A doorless and windowless log cabin is built upon supports made from the stumps of 2-3 closely grown trees cut at the height of 8-10 feet. The stumps, with their spreading roots, give a perfect impression of "chicken legs". The only access into the cabin is via the trapdoor in the middle of the floor. Bears are strong, smart and stubborn enough to break into any door, but they cannot use a ladder or climb a rope to reach the trapdoor. A similar, but smaller construction was used by Siberian pagans to hold figurines of pagan gods.
I'm going up in my treehouse now, and pulling up the ladder to keep out bears. It's time to start preparing for the June 17th DSO concert featuring
Stravinsky: Firebird Ballet Suite (1919)
Mozart: Divertimento in D major
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in C minor "Il Suspetto"
Tchaikovsky: Sérénade mélancolique
Debussy: Prélude à l'Après-midi d'une faune