A short introduction:
The term Program Music is almost exclusively applied to works in the European classical music tradition, particularly those from the Romantic music period of the 19th century, during which the concept was popular, but pieces which fit the description have long been a part of music. The term is usually reserved for purely instrumental works.
Scenes from Childhood Op15
Scenes from Childhood is a set of thirteen pieces of music for piano written in 1838. Schumann wrote 30 movements for this work, but chose 13 for the final version. He told his wife Clara that the "thirty small, droll things", most of them less than a page in length, were inspired by her comment that he sometimes seemed "like a child". He described them in 1840 as "more cheerful, gentler, more melodic" than his earlier works. The section titles were only added after the completion of the music, and Schumann described the titles as "nothing more than delicate hints for execution and interpretation
After Ravel had served in World War I, Diaghilev decided to brave possible production delays again and approached him with another commission for a ballet. Ravel had already started a work in 1906 tentatively titled Wien (or Vienna) to be a tribute in two parts to the waltzes of Johann Strauss, Jr., so he adapted it to be Diaghilev’s new ballet project. Wien would eventually become La Valse, and its brooding character is popularly interpreted today as reflecting the war and its carnage. Indeed, the original spirit of Wien, which explored the sweeping gestures of waltzing, now has a darker undercurrent to it, perhaps reflecting the Austria that Ravel fought against during the war. In other words, instead of thinking of the music illustrating lush, costumed couples dancing the waltz, the work now invokes images of the ravages of a bitterly fought war.
Pictures at an Exhibition
Pictures at an Exhibition – is a suite of ten pieces (plus a recurring, varied Promenade) composed for the piano. The suite is Mussorgsky's most famous piano composition and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists. It has become further known through various orchestrations and arrangements produced by other musicians and composers, with Maurice Ravel's arrangement being the most recorded and performed. Mussorgsky's biggest, most radical piano work is so much better known in Ravel's bespangled orchestration that the raw, muscular intensity of the original is sometimes forgotten.