Modest Mussorgsky was a self-taught genius who devoted most of his creative energy to vocal music. There is understandably no trace of the Pictures at an Exhibition in his small output of symphonic works. This suite of ten pieces inspired by watercolours, drawings and literary sketches by Viktor Hartmann was written for the piano. Mussorgsky had built a solid friendship with this Russian architect of German ancestry, who died shortly before his fortieth birthday. Devastated by the sudden loss of his friend, Mussorgsky found solace only after visiting the posthumous retrospective devoted to Hartmann at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. This exhibition presented some four hundred drawings and watercolours, mostly produced during the artist's travels in Europe. In the summer of 1874, Mussorgsky paid tribute to his friend with a piano suite which he wrote within a few days. The work is the composer's very personal visit of the exhibition, paced by his own steps (illustrated by the Promenade which punctuates the pieces). Since most of Hartmann's paintings have disappeared, it is difficult to identify them accurately through Mussorgsky's pieces. The composer, in fact, drew most of his inspiration from insignificant details or even from paintings excluded from the retrospective. Beyond the pictural anecdote, this suite is far more a psychological fresco that echoes the composer's personal fascinations, especially his obsession with death. The original piano version was published in 1886, five years after Mussorgsky's death. Ravel's orchestration (1922), by far the most famous of all the posthumous transcriptions, was commissioned by conductor Serge Koussevitzky.