Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition. Part 5 “Bydło”

This play it also belongs to a genre, where, generally, there can not be made a lot of mistakes with interpretation. One thing’s for certain, for that great creativity is required.

And besides, if in previous music pieces, playing kids were portraied in quite transparent watercolors, and generally, kids are there without particular psyhological penetrations, but just in a very delicate sketch, so here, in this play, there is required some psychological synthesis.

Bydło, if translated from Polish, as it was taken, for sure, from Polish language, Bydlo is cattle .But again, we have to take a look at where this material is originated. Knowingly, or perhaps, unknowingly, Modest Petrovich (it’s so hard to analyse mind and soul in subject of consciousness and unconsciousness ) anyway, is taking a look, geographically, to Poland.

Because we have bulls saddled into a very crooked cart [1.38] with such minor and sad theme. Where is this topic coming from? Again, there is root connection, folk connection as well as street and truth. It’s connection of a folk musician, who is originated from, not metaphorically but actually, from dirt, from peasants, from fairy tales, epics and taverns, – from everything, we might imply as folk living.

It’s typical 19th century pathetic folk song, or maybe even from an earlier period. Roots of this melody are going into old Belarusian pity folk song about a quail with sick legs. [2.51]

Probably someone from older generations still remembers our grandmas, who were quite old by that time, that they had memory of this song. And when our feet were tired from playing around, they sang us this song. So consciously or unconsciously, but definitely in mind, into Modest Petrovich’s soul sparked this sad Polish-Belarusian song.

It’s created a remarkable picture, where his thoughts about bulls pulling an ugly cart with crooked weels through the rugged terrain, they (thoughts) are, for sure, through true artist’s suspense transfering and extrapolating into our beastly fate, hard working fate, when we have to slave away till the end of our days.

But it was very relevant to Modest Petrovich, because, in comparisson to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, he didn’t get a big check so he could survive, dream and create!

He had to stay at his service office, where he was collecting all unbelivable and endless negative emotions, losing his life and his talent. Because of it all, his drunkenness and neglect, as well as ongoing depression, there are not so many works that he left us with. God didn’t give him « madame von Meck », but patrons are so crucial for brilliant, talented artists.

Therefore, for sure, his thoughts projected onto horrible fate of himself to slave away forever. So it’s happened just like that. He died of stroke, after he fell down due to a hypertensive attack, and had two more afer that, so he fell down on the carpet in his living room, tried to stand up, but fell down again and again. And then never stood up again…

For sure, all of it is in his music.

Because of it, we will not go through this play step by step, but I will play it in one piece.

You will understand and hear it for yourself.

«Bydło» [5.41]

9.07 It’s such an intresting and tragic folk sketch.

My advice to all interpreters, there is no way to perform it evenly, since this is rugged terrain, so it’s rugged terrain of life and it’s in place of this clumsy cart. From here we can jump onto Pushkin’s « cart of life ». In short, it’s continious psychology and philosophy and vice versa,the drama of life.

You’ve probably paid attention, when your cart was stuck, it was instructions from Mussorgsky. [9.46] He put little pauses to tell you where and when this cart has to fall down into the ditch. This should be performed with much character and expression.

Further, this cart is in different aspects: cart is getting closer, getting further, it’s here and there, and it’s passing by. And for sure we should extrapolate onto our life, in some way, onto our grave fate. Maybe not always bestial, but at least an uneasy human’s one.

After such a drama, our great moderator Modest Petrovich, and his face is exspressing it all, like never before. [10.38]

I will give you a tip at what it is, if you didn’t get it, actually it’s not to hard to guess : transparency and very high register.  [10. 58]

You can disagee with me, you would probably even smile, but it’s a teardrop.

Modest Petrovich teared up because of his thoughts.

I think, you’ll agree with me, when can see one more time how harmony is flowing through: [11.21] – clear intervals, pure state of levitating high.

For sure, it‘s such a pure and sad tear. [11.43]

And it is followed by thoughts I already was talking about. It sounds like as he is telling us : « our fate is so hard, as so hard our life is ». [12.02] Life is so hard, our fate is so hard, so hard…(12.31) How it’s told by one wonderful playwriter : « That’s enough… » [12.35] Smiling, laughing, [12.37]  trying to tell what’s coming up… [12.44]

And next, an absolutely.

Translated by ZJanna Melnichuk,  Svetlana Harris and Todd A Harris

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