Few pieces of music capture the visual imagination like Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Mussorgsky’s vivid renderings – of an old castle, a ballet of unhatched chicks or Baba Yaga’s wooden hut on hen’s legs – combined with a musical ‘Promenade’ that evokes the shifting moods of a gallery-goer strolling from one artwork to the next, create a remarkable musical journey; one that has inspired a new project by piano four-hands duo ZOFO, touring nationally for Musica Viva this month.

ZOFO, Pictures at an Exhibition ZOFO: Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi. Photo © Jim Block

The Russian Mussorgsky – one of a group of five nationalist composers dubbed ‘The Mighty Handful’ – had personal reasons for writing what has become one of his most famous works. Mussorgsky was deeply shaken when a friend, the architect, artist and designer Viktor Hartmann, died very suddenly in August 1873, at the age of just 39. An exhibition of over 400 of Hartmann’s sketches, watercolours, portraits as well as costume and architectural designs – including a clock inspired by the Baba Yaga folk-tale and an award-winning design for a city gate in Kiev that was never...

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