Musorgski / Pictures at an Exhibition
The second piece, titled "Gnome," begins abruptly and without preparation, evoking surprise and fear due to its strong and unsettling imagery. Hartmann's painting represents a costume sketch for the evil dwarf Chernomor from Pushkin's poem "Ruslan and Ludmila." Therefore, it is not just a mere figurative representation of a dwarf, but through the conceptual design of the costume, particularly the menacing pose and expression on the face with wide- open eyes and a huge gray beard being spread apart by the dwarf's hand, it provokes the character's nature from Pushkin's poem. It should be noted that Musorgsky evidently used Hartmann's drawings, sketches, and paintings merely as a starting point and foundation for his own fantasies. In many cases, Hartmann's works have a sketch-like style, serving as precise instructions, as seen in the case of the Gnome. The caricatural nature of these works served as simplified and clear visual instructions or references for the costume and set designers. Thus, some of these pieces do not necessarily contain the deeper meaning and character that we can hear in Musorgsky's transposition. Therefore, one can conclude that the composer, being in contact with Hartmann's works, was emotionally stirred and excited (we know from his friends' letters that Hartmann's death deeply affected him). This is further supported by the problem of alcoholism, which certainly influenced the heightened sensitivity and lack of composure of the great composer. Hartmann's sketch of the evil gnome, depicting him spreading his gray beard to better reveal the patterns on his attire, is for Modest Mussorgsky evidently something much more significant. In Mussorgsky's interpretation, the dwarf, by spreading his beard with his hand, reveals his evil nature, the appearance of his unfortunate physiognomy that causes horror and fear in the composer. In the musical flow, we recognize chromatic movements, sudden melodic turns that serve to surprise and frighten. In the middle section, written in a piano dynamic, we sense the deceitfulness of the evil dwarf Chernomor. The chromatic waves in the left hand depict agitated breathing, and the final passage represents a scream and escape from the unpleasant impression that this Hartmann painting produced in the composer.