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Pictures at an Exhibition
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About the Author

Anna Harwell Celenza is a musicologist and the author of several books for adults and children regarding music history and the history of art. Her children's books include THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY, PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION, GERSHWIN'S RHAPSODY IN BLUE, and VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS. Anna lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Reviews

Celenza and Kitchel (The Farewell Symphony) once again reprise a segment of music history for the grade-school crowd. This story, set in 19th-century Russia, details the pivotal friendship among composer Modest Mussorgsky, architect Victor Hartmann and art critic Vladimir Stasov. Mussorgsky sinks into despair at Hartmann's sudden death, which he overcomes only when he visits a memorial exhibit of more than 400 of Hartmann's works. Mussorgsky, inspired by the drawings and paintings, composes the titular piano suite. While the length of the text serves the target audience, Celenza sometimes oversimplifies both the language (e.g., "Victor dreamed of decorating his homeland with fantastic towers and gates") and the storytelling (" `The Great Gate of Kiev' [a picture] stirred Modest's soul. `Oh Victor,' he sighed, `This was to be your greatest achievement-a glorious monument to heroic Russia and almighty God!' "). Kitchel demonstrates Mussorgsky's creative process in showing characters and scenes from Hartmann's work (e.g., Baba Yaga, canary costumes designed for a ballet, a whimpering beggar) emerge from Mussorgsky's piano on flowing blue waves. However intriguing the conception, the execution pales: the figures verge on the cartoonish, and the colors-orangey pinks, gaudy purples and yellow greens-vibrate discordantly. The illustrations seem pitched to an audience younger than the sophistication suggested by the text's themes. A CD of piano and orchestral versions of the piece is included. Ages 8-11. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

K-Gr 4-From the author and illustrator team of The Farewell Symphony (Charlesbridge, 2000) comes a new gem for music lovers. Celenza brings to life three Russian friends-composer Modest Mussorgsky, architect Victor Hartmann, and art critic Vladimir Stasov. When Hartmann dies, Mussorgsky is plunged into despair and cannot create music. Concerned about him, Stasov prods him into attending a posthumous exhibit of Victor's artwork. The paintings inspire the composer's musical tribute to his friend, "Pictures at an Exhibition." The story is based on many primary-source documents-correspondence, an autobiographical essay, and an obituary-but Celenza weaves in a depth of emotion that makes these individuals' lives unforgettable. This same attention to detail is evident in Kitchel's illustrations; not only does the artist capture the energy and movement of the music in her vibrant watercolor-and-ink illustrations, but she also confines them within symbolic borders of traditional Russian and Ukrainian folk-art motifs. They harmonize well with the accompanying CD recording that includes both piano and orchestral versions of Mussorgsky's famous composition.-Laurie Edwards, West Shore School District, Camp Hill, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"The story is based on many primary source documents--correspondence, an autobiographical essay, and an obituary--but Celenza weaves in a depth of emotion that makes these individuals' lives unforgettable."

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