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Modest Mussorgsky

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Biography

A member of the group of Russian nationalist composers known as "The Mighty Five," Mussorgsky wrote opera (Boris Godounov, 1868), songs, and incidental music (Pictures at an Exhibition for piano (1874)), and A Night on Bare Mountain. Leading a very difficult life (nearly impoverished at times, working at the dreary job of a civil clerk, and suffering from alcoholism), Mussorgsky nevertheless produced some of the most original and remarkable songs from Russia, which are now part of the standard repertoire. The beauty, strength, and emotion of Russian folk songs and tales inspired him and fellow composers who were looking for a true Russian sound and voice. This is achieved with great coloristic effect in the famous Night on Bare Mountain (usually presented in the reorchestrated version by Rimsky-Korsakov) and with intimately stirring feeling (like that evoked by a good storyteller) in the song cycles Songs and Dances of Death and Bez solntsa (Sunless, or Without Sun), not to mention the popular Pictures at an Exhibition, with its many moods and memorable melodies. The operas Boris Godounov, Kovanschina, and Sorochintsy Fair should be heard in their original versions whenever possible for an experience of the spirit that was to change Russian music in the next century.

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Born:

March 21, 1839 in Karevo, Pskov, Russia

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