Modest Mussorgsky Bio

2 February 2017

Modest Mussorgsky Russia has produced many great composers – Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninoff are all very well known. In the mid-1800s, a group of 5 composers, known as “The Five,” greatly influenced Russian music by incorporating Russian folk and religious melodies and styles into their works.

Modest Mussorgsky was one of “The Five” and his works helped define the Russian Nationalistic style. Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was born in Karevo, Russia on March 21, 1839. His parents were landowners and members of the minor nobility, but his some of his descendents had been serfs.He spent the first ten years of his life on the family estate. In his autobiographical sketch written late in his life, Mussorgsky said that he learned about Russian folklore and fairy tales from his nurse when he was a toddler. He wrote, “This early familiarity with the spirit of the people, with the way they lived, lent the first and greatest impetus to my musical improvisations…” (Mussorgsky) When he was 6 years old, he started taking piano lessons from his mother, who was herself an accomplished pianist.When he was 10 years old, his father took Modest and his older brother Filaret to St.

Modest Mussorgsky Bio Essay Example

Petersburg and enrolled them in the Peterschule – an elite school for the sons of gentry – to prepare them for a military career. While enrolled, he began to study piano with Anton Herke (who would later become professor of music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory), an acclaimed pianist in St. Petersburg (Mussorgsky). After spending two years at the Peterschule, he spent a year at A. A. Komarov’s boarding school for prospective cadets.

He entered the Cadet School of the Guards in 1852.During that period, it was common for young men in his social class to become military officers (Oldani). It was there that Mussorgsky published his first composition, the Podpraporshchik (Porte-Enseigne Polka). In the tradition of all college students, the work was published at his father’s expense (Mussorgsky). This composition was originally lost, but was rediscovered and published in 1947. In 1856, Mussorgsky graduated from school and was commissioned as an officer in the Russian Imperial Guard. In August 1856, he met Alekandr Borodin, a fellow army officer.

During the winter of 1856, Mussorgsky discovered the music of Mikhail Glinka and that discovery stoked the Russophilic fire in Mussorgsky. On June 17, 1858, Mussorgsky resigned his commission in the Russian military so that he could devote all his time to music. In June 1859, while visiting an acquaintance near Moscow, Mussorgsky saw the Kremlin for the first time which strengthened his connection with Russian history (Oldani). In 1861, Tsar Alexander II abolished serfdom and the serfs were freed from servile status.Property owners were forced to hand over land to the now-free serfs (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). This decree was very hard on the minor nobility – the Mussorgsky family included. Mussorgsky’s father had died in 1853, and the family estate was already being poorly administered.

Losing their land only exacerbated the situation. During 1861 and 1862, Mussorgsky had to help his brother with running the matters of the estate; however, because of the reforms, the family was gradually forced into poverty. In 1863, Mussorgsky had to accept a job as a civil servant in the Ministry of Communications (Mussorgsky).Oldani notes that he also moved into a commune with “five other young men, living in the same flat and ardently cultivating and exchanging scientistic ideas on art, religion, philosophy and politics. ” In 1865, his mother died and he started drinking heavily. He moved in with his brother and sister-in-law, which helped with his recovery; however, he would continue to have alcohol problems for the rest of his life (Oldani). 1866 marked the beginning of Mussorgsky’s maturity as a composer.

During that year, he completed a compilation of 18 songs, plus some other songs (Oldani).Unfortunately, in April 1867, he was furloughed from his job (Mussorgsky). In late 1868, Mussorgsky started working on his opera, Boris Godunov ? based on a play by Aleksandr Pushkin. In early 1869, he was appointed to another civil service job with the Forestry Department. He finished his opera in late 1869 but his first draft was rejected by the theatre committee because it didn’t have an extended female part, so Mussorgsky started revising the opera. He added a female part. He also added a few scenes and rewrote others.

These revisions improved the opera but made it less faithful to the original Pushkin play.The request for performance was resubmitted and, after working its way up the bureaucratic chain-of-command, Tsar Alexander II approved Boris Godunov for performance on April 17, 1872 but, due to prior commitments by the theatre, it didn’t premiere until January 1874 (Oldani). After the premiere of his opera, Mussorgsky’s creativity really came alive. He composed one of his great piano works, Kartinki s vystavki (Pictures from an Exhibition), and several song cycles (Frolova-Walker). By the end of the summer of 1875, Mussorgsky was penniless.He was evicted by his landlady and had to move in with one of his friends. He started drinking heavily, again.

Between 1875 and 1881, he worked on a few additional projects. He also worked a few different jobs, but none that paid enough to support him. In February 1881, his friends were concerned enough to take him to a hospital. For a while, his health improved but, on March 28, 1881, he had a seizure and died. He was 42 years old (Mussorgsky). During his lifetime, Mussorgsky completed one major opera, several orchestral works, almost twenty piano compositions, and more than 60 songs.His compositions reflect Russian culture during that time period and Mussorgsky must be considered one of the great composers.

In February or March of 1874, Mussorgsky attended a memorial art exhibit of watercolors and sketches created by Viktor Hartmann, a well-known artist and architect. Mussorgsky and Hartmann had been introduced by a mutual acquaintance, Vladimir Stasov, in 1870 and they became very good friends. Hartmann had died of a heart attack the previous year at age 39, and Mussorgsky decided to pay tribute to him by creating a collection of compositions depicting 10 of these works (Frankenstein 277).He completed this collection, written for solo piano, in June 1874 and entitled it Kartinki s vystavki, or Pictures from an Exhibition. It has become one of Mussorgsky’s best-known compositions (Mussorgsky). Unfortunately, many of the Hartmann artworks that inspired Mussorgsky have been lost. Pictures from an Exhibition depicts a visitor’s travels through an art gallery.

The 1st theme, Promenade, which recurs between most of the movements, emulates the viewer’s stroll as he moves from painting to painting. When the Promenade is not being played, the music reflects the scene depicted in the painting at which the gallery visitor is looking.Sometimes, the Promenade theme stops abruptly, reflecting the way that, while walking around, one’s attention is suddenly drawn to a work of art (Jacobson). The movement is written in alternating bars of 5/4 and 6/4. According to Frankenstein, notes and letters written by Vladimir Stasov when the first edition of the music was published indicate that the 2nd movement, entitled Gnomus, represents “a little gnome walking awkwardly on deformed legs” and that the drawing on which the music is based “was a design for a toy nutcracker made for the Christmas tree at the St.As the music progresses and the oxen plod into the distance, there is a gradual decresendo to ppp. Up until now, the Promenade theme has been written in major keys.

This time, however, Mussorgsky uses a melancholic minor key, quiet dynamic level and a tranquil, thoughtful tempo – perhaps to show that viewing Hartmann’s art reminds him how much he misses his friend. Ballet of The Chickens in their Shells immediately follows Promenade. Stasov says that the inspiration for this piece was “a little picture by Hartmann for the setting of a picturesque scene in the ballet Trilby” (Frankenstein 283).The composer uses quick grace notes and a light, bright timbre that lets the listener hear the chicks peeping in their shells. Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle (Two Polish Jews: one rich, the other poor) features two different themes which are each played separately, then combined into one. The first theme is low pitched and ponderous; the second theme is shrill and strident. Promenade appears again in essentially the same form as it was the very first time that it is heard.

Limoges, The Market Place brings to mind the hustle and bustle of a busy marketplace.As the women scurry about, doing their shopping, they stop to gab and gossip. Catacombae represents, according to Stasov, “the artist himself looking at the catacombs of Paris by the light of a lantern” (Frankenstein 286). Mussorgsky uses sudden dynamics changes, a minor key and several long, dissonant chords in a row to create an ominous mood. Cum mortuis in lingua mortua means “With the dead in a dead language. ” This section is really just a very sad version of the Promenade theme. The quiet trills in the treble line give the work a ghostly quality.

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