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Here is a real modernist illustrator applying every principal from his teachings! Why do I love this record cover?

The Russian composer Modeste Mussorgsky wrote this music piece titled “Pictures at an Exhibition“, to remember the death of his friend, the painter, Victor Hartmann in 1874. It was not published until 1886, five years after Mussorgsky passed away. The piece was meant as a work for a piano solo.

Some orchestral transcriptions had been made before the French composer Maurice Ravel wrote his orchestra version in 1923. The date of this recording is 1961. It was made in Paris at the former boxing ring, the Salle Wagram which was used also for ballet performances at times. It took an American recording company to take their equipment over to Paris to record this music piece, played by a French orchestra! They discovered, the old Salle Wagram with its wood panels, was superior in acoustics, better than any other location they could find. The album was recorded with six special microphones on special 35mm tape equipment. It was the first time ever that this equipment was taken out of New York where the Command Company had their studio. So here we have some real firsts.

Now the graphic cover design reminds me of musical notes depicted in a very abstract way. No wonder the cover was designed by the famous German-American Painter Josef Albers, the former teacher at the German Bauhaus from 1923 until 1933 when it was closed by the then fascist government. Subsequently, Albers taught at Black Mountain College and Yale University where he was the head of the Design Department. The above cover was designed in a modernist way when the painter Albers was already 73 years old, he was born in 1888, a mere 2 years after the music was published. What a thrill he must have had felt to illustrate a piece of music honoring a fellow painter. It is clear to me that he was allowed to do whatever he wanted for this cover and he chose an abstract almost “Mondrian like” theme. Fantastic!

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