“Pictures at an Exhibition,” the defining piece by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (as orchestrated by the French composer Maurice Ravel), begins with a single trumpet, lilting and dancing from note to precise and precious note until the orchestra, in its segments, joins behind for the introductory movement, “Promenade.”
It continues through 10 small movements, each strikingly different in mood and based on individual paintings by Viktor Hartmann, a close friend and colleague of Mussorgsky who died at a young age.
Every so often, two of these wide-ranging vignettes are sewn together by a repetition of the “Promenade,” as much a palette cleanser for the next movement as a reminder of the piece’s roots. At first, the repetitions are clear: orchestrated differently, sure, but quite emphatically a similar set of notes.
Later, though, it begins to change, and molds into the crevices of the previous movements, taking on aspects of the growing piece until, with the final, bombastic movement, “The Great Gate of Kiev,” it becomes indistinguishable as a separate entity yet ineffable as a part of the stunning whole.
The University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra (UMSO) opened its season this year with a performance of “Pictures at an Exhibition,” along with Ravel’s “Rapsodie Espagnole,” which draws on the composer’s affinity for all things Spanish, as well as the world premiere of a piano concerto by Mark Wilson, a faculty composer at UMD. To top it off, UMD faculty artist Larissa Dedova played the constantly-active piano part of the concerto, according to The Clarice’s website. (Ms. Dedova is an internationally known pianist, according to the program notes.)
Leaving the Dekelboum Concert Hall, even more evidence of The Clarice’s breadth and scope were on view.
Across the lobby, “The Me Nobody Knows,” a contemporary musical, was in progress in the Kay Theater. Two renowned musicians (an operatic tenor and a respected pianist) joined in Schumann, Tippett and Fauré in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall as well.
Art, so different in form but so connected in theme, mission and value, permeated the space from every angle. Avant-garde photo booth images from the NextNOW Fest were projected into a patchwork of images on the walls of the lobby.
The Clarice is itself an amalgamation of various differing programs brought together under one expansive roof because of their commonalities. It is home to the School of Music, the School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies, The Artist Partner Program, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park And Planning Commission and the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library (itself home to the International Piano Archives at Maryland).
Here, broken into smaller vignettes like Mussorgsky’s pictures, these components present the different aspects of The Clarice as parts of a greater whole.
The UMD School of Music is home to more than 500 students. It oversees “three orchestras, six choirs, three bands, two athletic bands, three jazz bands, three world music ensembles [and] dozens of chamber ensembles,” according to the school’s website.
Josh Gehres, a sophomore trombone performance major in the School of Music (who, coincidentally, played bass trombone in UMSO’s performance of “Pictures at an Exhibition”) said he felt “very fortunate” to be in such an environment.
“There’s overall a very supportive atmosphere within the trombone studio, and I get the same sense from friends who play other instruments,” Gehres said. “I wouldn’t say it’s not a competitive atmosphere – and it wouldn’t be a good thing if that were the case – but it’s competitive without being cutthroat.”
The School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) is home to about 300 graduate and undergraduate students, said The Clarice’s communications coordinator Sarah Snyder. TDPS Master’s Program Graduate Andrew Barker, who is co-chair of the Maryland Students for the Arts, an advisory council for The Clarice, works as a graduate assistant in development at The Clarice and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in library science at Maryland.
Barker commented on his favorite part of the Clarice: “I think it’s the camaraderie, really. There’s something really unique about being in a performance where there’s people of all ages and … a very diverse audience.”
Chelsea Brown, a dance major, said “TDPS has shown me what art is, why it’s important, and what I can accomplish if I am truly invested.”
Part 2 coming soon.
Evan Berkowitz is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.