About this Recording

A Musical Visit to Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan
With music by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky and Alexander Porfir’yevich Borodin



Russia and Ukraine

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestrated by Maurice Ravel)

I. St Petersburg: Russian Museum

The Russian Museum, which opened its doors in 1898, was established in a Neo-Classical building, the Mikhailovsky Palace, designed by Carlo Rossi in 1819 for Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich. Its rich collections include works of art from the traditional to the modern.

Music Promenade

Pictures at an Exhibition was written in 1874 as a set of piano pieces, a translation into music of paintings, designs, models and drawings by Mussorgsky’s friend Victor Hartmann, who had died the year before. The exhibits are linked by a Promenade, as the visitor to the exhibition goes from exhibit to exhibit …

II. St Petersburg: Komarovo • Yalta
(Ukraine): Polyana Skazok Fairy Tale Garden

From Komarovo, on the Karelian Isthmus, we move to the Fairy-Tale Garden at Yalta, on the Crimea, with its wooden fairy-tale figures.

Music Gnomus

Gnomus is a design for nutcrackers in the shape of a gnome.

III. St Petersburg: Peterhof

The Palace at Peterhof was built by Peter the Great, to designs by Jean Baptiste Le Blond. It underwent various changes under succeeding monarchs, remaining a challenge to the Palace of Versailles, its inspiration.

Music Promenade

The imagined observer moves on to the next exhibit.

IV. St Petersburg: Znamenka Palace

Znamenka Palace, a baroque building, was acquired in 1835 by Tsar Nicholas I for his wife. It was badly damaged in the second World War, and is partly in ruins, particularly the old stables and servants’ quarters, which remain derelict.

Music Il vecchio castello (The Old Castle)

The Old Castle shows a troubadour singing outside the castle walls.

V. St Petersburg: Peterhof

Peterhof is open to the public, with some rooms retaining their original form, from the days of Peter the Great.

Music Promenade

The Promenade resumes.

VI. St Petersburg: Summer Gardens • Pavlovsk

The Summer Gardens in St Petersburg were originally commanded by Peter the Great, but had to be largely redesigned after heavy flooding under Catherine the Great. She was responsible for the development of the Palace and Gardens at Pavlovsk, a favourite resort.

Music Tuileries

The Tuileries depicts children at play and quarrelling, while nursemaids gossip, in the famous Paris gardens.

VII. St Petersburg: Komarovo

Komarovo, on the Karelian isthmus, lies some 28 miles from the centre of St Petersburg, a relatively short train journey.

Music Bydlo

Bydlo is a traditional Polish peasant ox-cart, with its creaking wooden wheels slowly turning.

VIII. St Petersburg

Artists’ canvases are stored awaiting future resurrection.

Music Promenade

The visitor moves on.

IX. St Petersburg: Literature Museum
Moscow: Bird Market

Hartman’s designs for children’s costumes and other bird figures are interleaved with views of the Moscow Bird Market.

Music Ballet de poussins dans leurs coques (Ballet of the Chickens in Their Shells)

Ballet of the Chickens in their Shells shows designs for children’s costumes, as described in the title.

X. Odessa (Ukraine) • St Petersburg

Artists’ canvases are stored awaiting future resurrection.

Music Samuel Goldberg and Schmuyle

Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle, the names of those portrayed the invention of the painter, is a picture of two Jews, one rich, one poor, a present by Hartmann to the composer.

XI. Odessa

Among the most famous catacombs in the world are the extensive caves and tunnels under the city of Odessa, covering some 3000 kilometres.

Music Limoges, le marché (Limoges, the Market)

In Limoges market-place old women gossip, discussing the fate of an escaped cow, and more trivial nonsense.

XII. Odessa

Artists’ canvases are stored awaiting future resurrection.

Music Catacombs

The Roman Catacombs, subtitled Sepulchrum Romanum, are lit by a flickering lamp, the skulls piled on either side beginning to glow in the light from within.

XIII. St Petersburg: Smolensk Cemetery

Smolensk Cemetery, established in the 18th century, is seen amid the winter snow.

Music Cum mortuis in lingua morta (With the dead in the language of the dead)

The Catacombs is linked to the eerie With the Dead in the Language of the Dead.

XIV. Moscow by Night

The coloured onion domes of churches and other major buildings of Moscow are seen illuminated by night.

Music La cabane sur des pattes de poule (The Hut on Fowl’s Legs)

The macabre continues with The Hut on Fowl’s Legs, a clock in the form of the hut of the witch Baba Yaga, who crunches up children’s bones and flies through the night on a pestle.

XV. Kiev (Ukraine) • St Petersburg: Night and Day

By night the major buildings of Kiev and of St Petersburg are seen in all their splendour.

Music La grande porte de Kiev (The Great Gate of Kiev)

The imposing conclusion offers a design for a triumphal gate in Kiev, to commemorate the escape of Tsar Alexander II from assassination in 1866. The music contrasts the massive structure with the sound of a solemn procession of chanting monks.


Uzbekistan: Kızıl Kum • Steppes, between Bukhara and Khiva

Bukhara itself served as an oasis in the Kızıl Kum (Red Sand) desert, with its nomadic herdsman and their animals.

Music Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia

Borodin described In the Steppes of Central Asia, written in 1882, as ‘a musical picture’. It depicts the journey of a caravan through Central Asia, with a Russian theme joining with the oriental, as two groups meet on their long journey. The piece, the result of a commission asking several composer for music to illustrate a pageant of events in the reign of Alexander II proved enormously popular.


Uzbekistan: Bukhara

The old city walls of Bukhara are seen, together with mosques and mausolea, madrassas and ruined palaces, as people go their traditional way, occupied in games of chess and other entertainments.

Music Borodin: Polovtsian Dances

The Polovtsian Dances of Borodin are found in the second act of his opera Prince Igor, where they provide entertainment for the Tartar Khan’s prisoners, Prince Igor and his son. The opening dance was orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov and the remaining dances by the composer, all suggesting a scene of barbarous energy.

Keith Anderson


Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Daniel Nazareth [Naxos 8.550051]

Close the window