We are starting today way over in Russia. Modest Mussorgsky was a Russian and is best known for how well he captured the feel of Russia in his music. He wrote music in all sorts of genres, many of the pieces of which were left unfinished at his death and were completed by other Russian composers or were orchestrated by other Russian composers to bring them to performance. Mussorgsky’s music is bold, haunting, frantic, soothing, and so much more.
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was born in the Russian village of Karevo, Russia, in 1839. He died in 1881 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was first given piano lessons by his mother, who recognized his talent. He began playing pieces by Franz Liszt at age 7 and was giving performances by age 9. He was enrolled in a military school and able to continue to study music alongside his military education. He graduated a received a commission in one of the premier military guards.
Music was an outlet for Mussorgsky and he had creative ideas that were so new and different that others didn’t know what to do with them. During his late teen years, he met several important Russian composers who taught and encouraged him. They are collectively known as “The Five” or “The Mighty” and they include Aleksandr Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Mily Balakirev, and César Cui. These men tend to be grouped together because they strove to portray Russia in their music. Through lyrics, sounds, folk music, and more, they worked to promote a national school of Russian music. The influence of these men on Mussorgsky is strong.
Mussorgsky did not do a lot to succeed in music and much of his great success came along after his death. He became an alcoholic and died of a heart condition related to alcoholism immediately after his 42nd birthday. His music related the history, folktales, legends, characteristics, language, and emotion of Russia. His song cycles are considered the first to really fit the rhythm and lilt of the Russian language to music.
Likely his most famous work is titled Pictures at an Exhibition. It was written after the death of a dear artist friend of Mussorgsky’s. It is programmatic in its writing and sound, depicting a variety of pictures through music. It is composed to take the listener through an exhibition of an artist’s work, each movement depicting a different place, person, or feel. There is a recurring theme meant to represent the composer wandering through the exhibit so it come back over and over through the work. The first video below is the original orchestration – solo piano. It was arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel and there are many recordings of it available performed by full orchestra.
Another of Mussorgsky’s famous pieces is Night on Bald Mountain. It was orchestrated by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The piece is based on a legend about a night where witches meet Satan on a mountain. (I didn’t know this until I was working on this post but I have known the piece for years!) It was based on a written piece by Nikolai Gogol titled St. John’s Eve.
Resources for Mussorgsky:
Lori, At Home.
Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.
Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook – This week is M is for Mindstorms and Minifigs
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – This week is Math Resources ofr Home Education.
Other posts from the week of Letter L –
- L is for Laser Maze and LEGO ABCs: L is for Legoland over at Our Homeschool Notebook
- L is for Lee over at A Mom’s Quest to Teach
- … of the World over at At Home Pets
- … over at A Net in Time
- Homeschooling Tips from A to Z: the Letter L over at Homeschooling Highway
- Life Skills in Your Homeschool at Every Bed of Roses