Again we are privileged to be able to view the two paintings which inspired the next piece in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. They belonged to Mussorgsky; Hartmann himself had presented them to him, and Mussorgsky lent them to the exhibition. The catalogue described them: Two Jews, Rich and Poor, and the understanding is that their nationality was Polish.
Mussorgsky cleverly combines the two in one musical sketch, by at first giving each a different voice heard independently; then he brings them together.
The wealthy gentleman, Samuel Goldenberg, sweeps in at a majestic pace, with augmented seconds adding a spicy touch of the exotic to his imperiously announced theme.
Poverty-stricken Schmuyle’s theme begs and pleads in falling LH phrases, while the RH doubles the melody in a tricky, repeated note ornamentation. And then follows Mussorgsky’s masterstroke as the two characters combine, the LH disdainfully proud, the RH desperately insistent.
Silence descends. Two half-hearted, wheedling requests are abruptly pushed aside; a last attempt is refused with rude finality. And that’s that.