Modest Mussorgsky
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1839-03-21
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/c1380b12-3909-47d8-a5fd-d20e76123310
Modest Mussorgsky

Modest Mussorgsky Biography (BBC)

Born into a prosperous land-owning family on a country estate 300 miles south of St Petersburg, Modest Musorgsky first appeared on the Russian musical scene as an elegant 17-year-old army offcer with a dilettantish interest in the arts. A year later, in 1857, he was taken under the wing of Mily Balakirev, an ardent proponent of a genuinely Russian art as well as a fanatical admirer of Berlioz and Liszt. Like the other composers who joined Balakirev’s circle and became known collectively as ‘The Mighty Handful’ (moguchaya kuchka) – Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and César Cui – Musorgsky gained from the master’s enthusiasms yet missed out on a systematic training in harmony and counterpoint, a defciency which his idiosyncratic genius turned to good use but which was always to be held against him.

Musorgsky’s early works, written under Balakirev’s influence, already show a striking ability to give a visual image a strong musical form: the Intermezzo in modo classico for piano of 1862, later orchestrated, was inspired by a winter scene with a group of peasants plunging and tumbling through snow drifts. Yet it was not until he came in contact with other artists from non-musical spheres that Musorgsky began to focus his thoughts upon creating ‘an independent Russian product, free from German profundity and routine … grown on our country’s soil and nurtured on Russian bread’. He regarded his 1866–7 tone-poem A Night on the Bare Mountain as exactly that, although both Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov found it too unorthodox.

Even more significant was Musorgsky’s determination to render an artistic reproduction of Russian speech and intonation. It began with a highly original sequence of songs, progressed with his unfinished attempt to set every word of Gogol’s play The Marriage as an opera and reached its high water mark in the original 1868–9 version of Boris Godunov; a thorough revision of Boris in 1871–2 inclined more to conventional modes of operatic song and aria, making it more acceptable for presentation on the Imperial Russian stage.

With the successful premiere of Boris Godunov in 1874, Musorgsky’s future might have seemed assured. Yet the heavy drinking that dated back to his army days, severe bouts of depression and an impoverished lifestyle following the loss of the family fortunes with the emancipation of the serfs militated against a steady output.

His highly original piano tribute to an architect friend who died in 1873, Pictures at an Exhibition, was a masterpiece unacknowledged in his lifetime. He also took his individual art of song-writing to new heights with the cycles Sunless (1874) and Songs and Dances of Death (1875–7); but his operatic ambitions were compromised by a desire to relax with another Gogol comedy, Sorochintsy Fair (1874–80), alongside work on another ‘national music drama’, Khovanshchina (1872–80). Neither was completed by the time of a fatal stroke in February 1881.

Just before his death Ilya Repin painted the tragic image that we always associate with Musorgsky; the works, whether in their incomparably vivid original form or in the well-meaning revisions by Rimsky-Korsakov and others, tell a different story.

Profile © David Nice

Modest Mussorgsky Biography (Wikipedia)

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (Russian: Модест Петрович Мусоргский;; 21 March [O.S. 9 March] 1839 – 28 March [O.S. 16 March] 1881) was a Russian composer, one of the group known as "The Five". He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period. He strove to achieve a uniquely Russian musical identity, often in deliberate defiance of the established conventions of Western music.

Many of his works were inspired by Russian history, Russian folklore, and other nationalist themes. Such works include the opera Boris Godunov, the orchestral tone poem Night on Bald Mountain and the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.

For many years Mussorgsky's works were mainly known in versions revised or completed by other composers. Many of his most important compositions have posthumously come into their own in their original forms, and some of the original scores are now also available.

This entry is from Wikipedia, the user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors and is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons License. If you find the biography content factually incorrect or highly offensive you can edit this article at Wikipedia. Find out more about our use of this data.

Modest Mussorgsky Audio & Video


Modest Mussorgsky Performances

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Modest Mussorgsky
Ballet des poussins dans leurs coques from "Pictures from an exhibition"
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Ballet des poussins dans leurs coques from "Pictures from an exhibition"
Modest Mussorgsky
Khovanshchina - Prelude to Act 1 (Dawn on the Moscow River)
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Khovanshchina - Prelude to Act 1 (Dawn on the Moscow River)
Modest Mussorgsky
Pictures from an Exhibition - La Grande porte de Kiev
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Pictures from an Exhibition - La Grande porte de Kiev
Modest Mussorgsky
Khovanshchina - Symphonic Transcription: (Entr'acte) Intermezzo) Act V
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Khovanshchina - Symphonic Transcription: (Entr'acte) Intermezzo) Act V
Modest Mussorgsky
Pictures from an Exhibition, orch. Ravel (Bydlo)
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Pictures from an Exhibition, orch. Ravel (Bydlo)
Modest Mussorgsky
Pictures from an Exhibition, orch. Ravel (Promenade & Gnomus)
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Pictures from an Exhibition, orch. Ravel (Promenade & Gnomus)
Modest Mussorgsky
Il vecchio castello (from Pictures at an Exhibition)
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Il vecchio castello (from Pictures at an Exhibition)
Modest Mussorgsky
Dawn over the Moscow River from Khovanshchina
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Dawn over the Moscow River from Khovanshchina
Modest Mussorgsky
A Night on the bare mountain, ed. Rimsky-Korsakov (BBC NOW South America 2015)
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A Night on the bare mountain, ed. Rimsky-Korsakov (BBC NOW South America 2015)
Modest Mussorgsky
Prelude: Dawn over the Moscow River (Khovanshchina)
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Prelude: Dawn over the Moscow River (Khovanshchina)
Modest Mussorgsky
Songs and dances of death, arr. Shostakovich for medium voice & orchestra
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Songs and dances of death, arr. Shostakovich for medium voice & orchestra
Chloe Hanslip (violin), London Symphony Orchestra, Paul Mann & Modest Mussorgsky
Gopak from Sorochintsky Fair
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Gopak from Sorochintsky Fair
Modest Mussorgsky
Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestrated by Ravel)
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Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestrated by Ravel)
Modest Mussorgsky
Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks in their Shells
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Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks in their Shells
Modest Mussorgsky
Prelude and Dance of the Persian Slaves from Khovanschina
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Prelude and Dance of the Persian Slaves from Khovanschina
Modest Mussorgsky
The Oxcart/Bydlo (Pictures at an Exhibition)
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The Oxcart/Bydlo (Pictures at an Exhibition)
Modest Mussorgsky
Pictures from an Exhibition
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Pictures from an Exhibition
Modest Mussorgsky
Pictures at an Exhibition; Ballad of the Unhatched Chicks in their Shells
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Pictures at an Exhibition; Ballad of the Unhatched Chicks in their Shells
Modest Mussorgsky
Pictures from an Exhibition: The great gate of Kiev
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Pictures from an Exhibition: The great gate of Kiev
Modest Mussorgsky
The Nursery: Cat and the Bird Cage
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The Nursery: Cat and the Bird Cage
Modest Mussorgsky
The Nursery Hobby-Horse
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The Nursery Hobby-Horse
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