Music Inspired by Visual Art: You Be the Critic

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, Respighi. Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, Respighi. (Wikipedia Commons)

From the gallery to the concert hall, this week’s Showdown offered three pieces that depict works of visual art: Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of the Dead and Respighi’s Botticelli Triptych.

Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is well known for its promenade through the halls of St. Petersburg’s Academy of Fine Arts, where Mussorgsky’s friend Victor Hartmann was memorialized in 1874 with an exhibit of his drawings and watercolors.

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead takes its inspiration from a painting by the Swiss symbolist Arnold Bocklin. Between 1880 and 1886, Bocklin produced five different versions of this painting and described it as “a dream picture” which “must produce such a stillness that one would be awed by a knock on the door.”

The third piece is Ottorino Respighi’s Botticelli Triptych. Respighi, who had a deep interest in early music, looks back to 15th century art in his depiction of three famous paintings by the Italian Renaissance master, Sandro Botticelli: Spring, Adoration of the Magi and The Birth of Venus.

After a very, very close race, you chose Respighi’s Botticelli Triptych as the piece you'd like to hear. We played it at noon.


Comments [24]

Diana Hosley Burchfield from Brooklyn, New York

As an artist, my vote is for " Pictures at an Exhibition"!

Oct. 10 2012 12:35 PM

Isle of the Dead

(like with Tuonela, Thomas Tallis's theme, and others, this makes of death a not unwelcome thing..

Oct. 10 2012 12:03 PM
Barbara from New Rochelle, NY

You cannot hear Pictures at an Exhibition too often

Oct. 10 2012 12:00 PM
John David from Upper West Side

For decades i have found Respighi superficial, pompous and boring, and don't understand why there is all this interest in him now. Unless it's because we've all become more superficial, pompous and... Anyway, it's fun to vote.

Oct. 10 2012 11:54 AM
Tim from Washington, DC

If the piano version of Pictures at an exhibition was on the list I'd vote for that, but with this line-up I vote for Isle of the Dead, having never heard it before.

Oct. 10 2012 11:54 AM

I wonder if "Isle of the Dead" were named "Isle of a Friendly Ghost" it would get played more often. I vote of the Rachmaninoff.

Oct. 10 2012 11:45 AM
Tim from Nyack

If I hear "Pictures" on WQXR one more time, I'm going to scream!

Oct. 10 2012 11:32 AM
Suzanne from New York

I love all three composers. Today I will vote for Respighi for some of the reasons others have already stated. The Mussorgsky/Ravel gets plenty of air time, while the Rachmaninoff is maybe too gloomy on an already-Novemberish NY afternoon!

Thanks for these Showdowns, though. They are always a lot of fun.

Oct. 10 2012 11:27 AM
Ed from Mount Vernon

As a young boy, like so many of us my first taste of classical music was the theme for "The Lone Ranger". As a teen I was attracted by the total orchestral power of Tchaikovsky & others. Pictures at an exhibition really brought home the graphic nature of music, especially "the Great Gate of Kiev". i could easily picture those magnificent gates in motion.

Oct. 10 2012 10:55 AM

The Respighi brings back beautiful memories.

Oct. 10 2012 10:52 AM
Sandy from Indianapolis

I love the Mussorgsky but it's played so often that I ruled it out. I don't know either the Respighi or the Rachmaninoff selections but being as I love most everything Rachmaninoff, I voted for it.

Oct. 10 2012 10:48 AM

Even though I am nearly certain that the Mussorgsky will win in a runaway, I'm voting for the Respighi. I adore the Triptych, and would love to hear it.

Oct. 10 2012 10:40 AM
joyce from Pittsfield MA

Can't you show the pictures?

Oct. 10 2012 10:31 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

Since today is my birthday, I don't think I feel like hearing "The Isle of the Dead"! I'd rather celebrate with "Pictures at an Exhibition", because it is one of those pieces that I never get tired of hearing. Thanks for this weekly Showdown - I always look forward to it each week.

Oct. 10 2012 10:27 AM
Francisca Sabadie from Scarsdale, New York

well, sentiment prevents me from voting for other than the Mussorgsky because it was one of my mother's favorite pieces and I even was inspired by it to go to Kiev and see the Great Gate and loved it! Thanks - much more inspiring than the Isle of the Dead! although will be happy to hear the Botticelli as well since my mother lived Respighi as well

Oct. 10 2012 10:26 AM
Gerri from Brooklyn

I agree. I prefer to hear the pieces before I choose. But I would love to hear Botticelli Triptych too. By the way, I do work at a museum and love to listen to your station every day. Thanks so much for entertaining my day.

Oct. 10 2012 10:15 AM
Toni from NYC

When Respighi is on the list it's no contest for me. And this piece is one of his most beautiful and evocative.You can see Botticelli's lovely 'Venus on the half-shell' rising from the waves.:-)

Oct. 10 2012 10:11 AM
Ed from Kissimmee, FL

I don't expect the Botticelli Triptych" however, of the three it is my
favorite. The other 2 pieces are too well known.

Oct. 10 2012 10:09 AM
Madeline from NYC, East Village

The Botticelli triptych is what I'd love to hear today. Everyone in this world kno9ws Pictures at an Exhibition which I do love, but this needs to be heard more and more..Thank you.MC

Oct. 10 2012 09:57 AM
KRISS` from Piscataway, NJ

Usually, you provide links so we can hear the pieces before voting.
Since I am unfamiliar with all except the Mussorgsky (which I prefer in the original piano version), the opportunity to hear samples of the other works would have been appreciated.

Oct. 10 2012 09:54 AM
VR from CT

How about the ORIGINAL "Pictures at an Exhibition" for solo piano? It's rarely heard anymore...

Oct. 10 2012 09:50 AM
mb from Bucharest

It was difficult to make a choice. but I did it!
Thanks for music!

Oct. 10 2012 09:15 AM
Julia de Bary from Verona

"Pictures "have so much power in their orchestration that shows all kind of colors and feelings that trully inspire me.

Oct. 10 2012 09:02 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

Since "Pictures..." is gratefully so well known (in the Ravel orchestration), I vote for "The Botticelli Triptych". If you love "Ancient Airs and Dances for Lute", I'm sure you'll love this work, too.

Oct. 10 2012 08:48 AM

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