Spotlight On: Gnomus

Derived from the Latin "Gnomus", this movement of Pictures is in the key of E-flat minor.  This key is rarely used in orchestral music, other than to modulate.  However, it is used in keyboard music - most popularly in Russian pieces.  Mahler wrote the indroduction to his 8th Symphony in E-flat minor, and Yngwie Malmstein wrote a number of pieces in this key.  It's an unusual and somewhat off-putting key, to be sure.

Harmann and Mussorgsky's mutual friend, Stasov's, comment about the picture -  "A sketch depicting a little gnome, clumsily running with crooked legs - is most apt, as the rhythms are asymmetric, with odd and abrupt movements, striking dissonances, and challenging chromaticism.  Each section is called upon in turn to participate in the story of the little gnome as he runs around, fomenting mischief.

Harmann's sketch has since been lost, but is thought to represent a design for a nutcrcker displaying large teeth.  The sketch pictured above is thought to evoke the original sketch for "Gnomus", and is a Hartmann sketch for a costume design for a revival of Russlan and Ludmilla.

Attend our performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, June 10, 2017 at Northshore Performing Arts Center.