Like of lot of people my age, I heard Keith Emerson’s arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for his band ELP in the early 1970s, he’s still playing it years later. Originally a suite for solo piano, the orchestral arrangement by Maurice Ravel is also well known to classical music lovers.
Yamashita Kazuhito’s recording of his guitar transcription was reissued a few years ago on CD, but it’s already out of print. Prices on Amazon are astronomical, someday I’ll probably find a used copy somewhere for a dollar. I’ve heard it and there’s plenty of virtuoso guitar, but the performance sounded ragged.
Jorge Caballero should record it. but doesn’t list Pictures in the repertoire page of his website. However, here’s two versions of his transcription for guitar. It’s an old favorite, perfect for guitar.
July 5, 2014 update from Wikipedia
The first musician to arrange Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for orchestra was the Russian composer and conductor Mikhail Tushmalov. However, his version (first performed in 1891 and possibly produced as early as 1886 when he was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov) does not include the entire suite: Only seven of the ten “pictures” are present, leaving out Gnomus, Tuileries, and Bydło, and all the Promenades are omitted except for the last one, which is used in place of the first.
The next orchestration was undertaken by the British conductor Henry Wood in 1915. He recorded a few sections of his arrangement on a pair of acoustic Columbia 78rpm discs in 1920. However, he withdrew his version when Maurice Ravel’s orchestration was published and banned every public performance in the 1930s in deference to Ravel’s work. Wood’s arrangement has also been recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Nicholas Braithwaite and issued on the Lyrita label. It omits all but the first of the Promenade-based movements and features extensive re-composition elsewhere. Wood’s orchestration was once described by Gordon Jacob as “superior in picturesqueness to the Ravel”, with its off-stage camel-bells in “Bydlo” and grand organ in “The Great Gate of Kiev”.
The first person to orchestrate the piece in its entirety was the Slovenian-born conductor and violinist Leo Funtek, who finished his version in 1922 while living and working in Finland.
The version by Maurice Ravel, produced in 1922 on a commission by Serge Koussevitzky, represents a virtuoso effort by a master colourist. The orchestration has proved the most popular in the concert hall and on record. Ravel omitted the Promenade between “Samuel” Goldenberg und “Schmuÿle” and Limoges and applied artistic license to some particulars of dynamics and notation. His instrumental colors—a trumpet solo for the opening Promenade, dark woodwind tones for passages suggesting Orthodox chant, the piccolo and high strings for the children’s “chicks in shells”–are widely admired. The influence of Ravel’s version may often be discerned in subsequent versions of the suite.
Koussevitzky’s commission, worked out with the publishers of the piano suite, gave him sole conducting rights for several years. He published Ravel’s score himself and in 1930 made the first recording of it with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The exclusive nature of his commission prompted the release of a number of contemporary versions by other arrangers until Ravel’s became generally available.
The original publisher of Mussorgsky’s piano suite, W. Bessel & Co. rushed to produce an orchestral version of its own after Ravel’s proved popular. The publisher had passed on the opportunity to publish Ravel’s arrangement, seeing no great commercial advantage in printing a score and set of parts for large orchestra; it had granted Koussevitzky permission to commission the setting and publish the score himself on the condition that no one else be allowed to perform it. Bessel turned to a Ravel student, 21-year-old Russian-born pianist Leonidas Leonardi (1901–1967), a.k.a. Leon Leonardi or Leonid Leonardi, to create an orchestral version that could meet the now burgeoning demand and help the publisher regain some of its lost advantage. Leonardi’s orchestration requires even larger forces than the version made by his mentor. The young pianist dedicated his setting of the suite to Igor Stravinsky and conducted the premiere in Paris with the Lamoureux Orchestra on 15 June 1924. The US premiere took place on 4 December 1924 when the New York Symphony Orchestra performed it under the baton of Walter Damrosch. Regardless, Leonardi’s orchestration was soon eclipsed by Ravel’s, and today only the third Promenade and “Tuileries” movement of his version may be heard on audio record (Leonard Slatkin/Saint Louis Symphony: The Slatkin Years: 6 CD Set).
Another arrangement appeared when Eugene Ormandy took over the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1936 following Leopold Stokowski’s decision to resign the conductorship. Ormandy wanted a version of Pictures of his own and commissioned Lucien Cailliet, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s ‘house arranger’ and player in the woodwind section, to produce one. This version was premiered and recorded by Ormandy in 1937. Walter Goehr published a version in 1942 for smaller forces than Ravel but curiously dropped Gnomus altogether and made Limoges the first “picture”.
The conductor Leopold Stokowski had introduced Ravel’s version to Philadelphia audiences in November 1929; ten years later he produced his own very free orchestration (incorporating much re-composition), aiming for what he called a more ‘Slavic’ orchestral sound instead of Ravel’s more ‘Gallic’ approach. Stokowski revised his version over the years and made three gramophone recordings of it (1939, 1941 and 1965). The score, finally published in 1971, has since been recorded by other conductors, including Matthias Bamert, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Oliver Knussen and José Serebrier.
Although Ravel’s version is most often performed and recorded, a number of conductors have made their own changes to the scoring, including Arturo Toscanini, Nikolai Golovanov and Djong Victorin Yu. Conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy has produced his own orchestral arrangement, expressing dissatisfaction with Ravel’s interpretive liberties and perpetuation of early printing errors. The conductor Leonard Slatkin has performed ‘compendium’ versions, in which each Promenade and “picture” is interpreted by a different orchestral arranger.
Many other orchestrations and arrangements of Pictures have been made. Most show debts to Ravel; the original piano composition is, of course, frequently performed and recorded. A version for chamber orchestra exists, made by Taiwanese composer Chao Ching-Wen. Elgar Howarth arranged it for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble in 1977, subsequently recasting it for Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Kazuhito Yamashita wrote an adaptation for solo classical guitar. Excerpts have also been recorded, including a 78 rpm disc of The Old Castle and Catacombs orchestrated by Sir Granville Bantock, and a spectacular version of The Great Gate of Kiev was scored by Douglas Gamley for full symphony orchestra, male voice choir and organ. The Amadeus Orchestra (UK), taking a page from Leonard Slatkin’s ‘compendium’ approach, commissioned ten composers to orchestrate one movement each to make a version first performed complete in 2012. Movements were provided by Alastair King, Roger May, Tolib Shakhidi, David Butterworth, Philip Mackenzie, Simon Whiteside, Daryl Griffiths, Natalia Villanueva, James McWilliam and Julian Kershaw.
The suite has inspired homages in a broad range of musical styles. A version featured in two albums by the British trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer incorporates elements of progressive rock, jazz and folk music (1971/2008). An electronic music adaptation by Isao Tomita was done in 1975. A heavy metal arrangement of the entire suite was released by German band Mekong Delta; another metal band, Armored Saint, utilised the “Great Gate of Kiev” theme as an introduction for the track “March of the Saint”. In 2002 electronic musician-composer Amon Tobin paraphrased “Gnomus” for the track “Back From Space” on his album Out from Out Where. In 2003 guitarist-composer Trevor Rabin released an electric guitar adaptation of “Promenade” originally intended for the Yes album Big Generator and later included on his demo album 90124. In 2005 Animusic 2 included a track entitled “Cathedral Pictures”. Based on the Emerson, Lake, & Palmer version, “Cathedral Pictures” included only the first Promenade and the final two movements from the suite. The Michael Jackson song ‘HIStory’ samples a short section of the Great Gate Of Kiev, longer version was played during HIStory World Tour finale in 1997. Re-issues of the HIStory album further changed the sample on the track.
A partial listing of orchestral arrangements of Pictures at an Exhibition:
Mikhail Tushmalov (ca. 1886; three “pictures” and four Promenades omitted: recorded by Marc Andrae and the Munich Philharmonic for BASF)
Henry Wood (1915; four Promenades omitted: recorded by Nicholas Braithwaite and the London Philharmonic for Lyrita)
Leo Funtek (1922; all Promenades included: recorded by Leif Segerstam and the Finnish Radio Symphony for BIS; Also on Teldec Laser-disc with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra)
Maurice Ravel (1922; the fifth Promenade omitted)
Giuseppe Becce (1922; for “salon-orchestra”. No Promenades are included at all, and only some of the Pictures.)
Leonidas Leonardi (1924; published by Breitkopf & Härtel; Leonard Slatkin has “revived” a part of the Leonardi version by using Promenade III & Tuileries in his 1st “compendium” suite of “Pictures at an Exhibition” )
Lucien Cailliet (1937: recorded by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra for RCA and reissued on Biddulph)
Leopold Stokowski (1939; third Promenade, Tuileries, fifth Promenade and Limoges omitted. Three recordings conducted by Stokowski: with the Philadelphia Orchestra, All-American Youth Orchestra, and New Philharmonia)
Walter Goehr (1942; Gnomus omitted; includes a subsidiary part for piano)
Sergei Gorchakov (1954: recorded by Kurt Masur and the London Philharmonic for Teldec; Also recorded with Karl Anton Rickenbacher, conducting the Cracow Radio Symphony, for the RCA Records. A live 1980 performance by the Leningrad Academic Symphony Orchestra under Konstantin Simeonov was recorded by Melodya.)
Nikolai Golovanov (A heavily edited version of Ravel’s orchestration in which Golovanov omits all but the first of the Promenades was recorded for Melodya)
Lawrence Leonard (1977; for piano and orchestra; recorded by Tamas Ungar, piano, with Geoffrey Simon and the Philharmonia Orchestra for Cala)
Vladimir Ashkenazy (1982: recorded by Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra for Decca/London)
Thomas Wilbrandt (1992)
Emile Naoumoff (ca. 1994, in concerto style with some added music, for piano and orchestra ; recorded with Igor Blaschkow, conducting the Deutsches Symphony Orchestra Berlin, for Wergo)
Mekong Delta (1997; for group and orchestra)
Carl Simpson (1997; Promenade IV included in Leonard Slatkin’s 2nd “compendium” suite for Warner Classics and Naxos)
Chao Ching-Wen (2002; for chamber orchestra)
Jason Wright Wingate (2003; orchestra, organ and chorus)
Hidemaro Konoye (date unknown)
Leonard Slatkin Two ‘compendium’ versions, the 2nd of which he recorded with the BBC Symphony Orchestra for Warner Classics live at the BBC Proms on 1 September 2004; The other recording was with the Nashville Symphony for Naxos Records.
Clarice Assad (2008, for the New Century Chamber Orchestra)
Václav Smetáček (date unknown; a performance with Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting the Prague Symphony Orchestra on 28 October 2004 has been issued on the Don Industriale label)
Jukka-Pekka Saraste created a performing edition of his own, combining the orchestrations of Leo Funtek and Sergei Gorchakov; He recorded it with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for Finlandia Records, a division of Warner Music Group)
Aurélien Bello, for large orchestra (2011)
Amadeus Orchestra version, with one picture each provided by Alastair King, Roger May, Tolib Shakhidi, David Butterworth, Philip Mackenzie, Simon Whiteside, Daryl Griffiths, Natalia Villanueva, James McWilliam and Julian Kershaw. (2012, for large orchestra)
Peter Breiner (2012, for large orchestra), recorded by Breiner and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for Naxos.
Arrangements for other forces
A listing of arrangements of Pictures at an Exhibition for performing forces other than orchestra:
Giuseppe Becce (1930; for piano trio)
Vladimir Horowitz (1946; revised version for solo piano)
Ralph Burns (1957; for jazz orchestra)
Allyn Ferguson (ca. 1963; for jazz orchestra)
Elaine Fine (2012; The Old Castle for 3 violins, 2 violas, and 1 cello)
Calvin Hampton (1967; for organ)
Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1971; rock group, lyrics written by Greg Lake); see Pictures at an Exhibition (album)
Harry van Hoof (ca. 1972; brass ensemble; The Bogatyr Gates only)
Isao Tomita (1966; various instruments for the Osamu Tezuka animated film, 1975; for synthesizer)
Elgar Howarth (ca. 1977; for brass ensemble. Recorded in 1977 by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble for Argo)
Ray Barretto (1979; The Old Castle for Latin-jazz band)
Arthur Wills (1970s; for organ. Recorded in 1980 by Wills on the Organ of Ely Cathedral for Hyperion)
Jon Faddis (1978; for Trumpet, in his solo album, “Good and Plenty” with the track name “Promenade”)
Kazuhito Yamashita (1980; for classical guitar)
Henk de Vlieger (1981; for percussion ensemble)
Hugh Lawson (1983; for jazz trio)
James Curnow (1985; for large wind ensemble; abridged version)
Jean Guillou (ca. 1988; for organ)
Jevgenija Lisicina (ca. 1991; for three pipe organs; ca. 1997 for organ and 14 percussion instruments)
Tangerine Dream (1994; Promenade for trumpet, saxophone, horns and synthesizer; on their Turn of the Tides album)
James Crabb and Geir Draugsvoll (1996; Duo Accordion)
Mekong Delta (1997; for metal band)
Stan Funicelli (1998; Hut of the Baba Yaga and the Great Gate of Kiev; for 3 guitars in New Standard Tuning)
Michael Allen (2000; for brass ensemble, recorded by the Burning River Brass)
Christian Lindberg (ca. 2000; for trombone and piano)
Simon Proctor (ca. 2000; for euphonium & tuba quartet, retitled Miniatures at an Exhibition))
Larry Clark (2001; for beginning band, Promenade and Great Gate of Kiev)
Hiroshi Hoshina (2001; for wind orchestra)
Carl Simpson (2004; for wind orchestra)
Wayne Lytle, for the DVD Animusic 2 under the title Cathedral Pictures (2005; for synthesizer; Promenade, Baba Yaga and The Bogatyr Gates)
Sergei V. Korschmin (2006; for Brass Sextet – 2 Trumpets, Horn, Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba)
Cameron Carpenter (2006, for organ)
Walter Hilgers (2006; for large brass ensemble, percussion, and two harps)
Glass Duo (2007; for glass harp)
Slav de Hren (2008; for a punk-jazz band and vocal ensemble. Some of the pieces are complete transcriptions, others are improvisations on the original theme)
Friendly Rich (2009; for avant-garde cabaret jazz ensemble)
Clarice Assad (2009; for string orchestra, piano and percussion)
Merlin Patterson (2011; for wind ensemble)
Vladimir Agopov (2011; for large wind ensemble)
Neil Cicierega (2014; for Smash-Mouth based mashup album)
Alan Gout (date unknown; for chamber ensemble)
Duke Ellington (date unknown; for jazz big band)
William Schmidt (date unknown; for saxophone choir);
Andrés Segovia (date unknown; for guitar; The Old Castle only)
Michael Sweeney (date unknown; for large wind ensemble; Promenade, The Hut of Baba Yaga, The Great Gate of Kiev)
Ward Swingle (date unknown; for vocal ensemble, double bass and percussion; Limoges only)
Gail Royer (1986-1987; Santa Clara Vanguard Drum And Bugle Corps)
Robert W. Smith (2012; Madison Scouts Drum And Bugle Corps)