Music / Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (Russian: Моде́ст Петро́вич Му́соргский, 21 March [9 March in the Julian calendar] 1839 – 28 March [16 March in the Julian calendar] 1881) was a Russian composer of great originality, though almost all of his most popular works are best known in forms created by other composers, notably Rimsky-Korsakov. A member of 'The Five' (Or 'The Mighty Handful'), Mussorgsky trained as a soldier, and then became a civil servant, though wasn't particularly successful at either. A decline fuelled by alcohol and penury resulted in his early death at the age of 42.
In his lifetime, Mussorgksy's works were not well received, but the arrangements of his Pictures at an Exhibition
(by Maurice Ravel
) and A Night on Bald Mountain
(by the youngest member of the Five, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov) established both as popular concert pieces, while the reputations of the original versions are also undergoing much re-evaluation
, while his only finished opera, Boris Godunov
, is among the most popular of all Russian operas.
He is mentioned as being dead in the song "Decomposing Composers" by Michael Palin
sang on Monty Python
's Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album
Mussorgsky's works that have their own page:
Tropes concerning the man and the work include:
- The Alcoholic: Mussorgsky hung out with a group of artists who saw drinking as a way to rebel against the establishment. A famous portrait of the composer◊ shows him clearly suffering the symptoms of alcoholism; sadly, he died of its effects a few days after the painting's completion.
- Anti-Villain: Boris Godunov, who, as in Pushkin's play, is overcome with remorse at his actions.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Act 1 of Boris Godunov ends with a spectacular coronation sequence, complete with bells pealing and full choir.
- Covered Up: Many of his compositions are better known in orchestral arrangements by Rimsky-Korsakov or Ravel.
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Mussorgsky was a patriotic Russian and this is seen in themes and musical styles of many of his compositions.
- Standard Snippet: Night on Bald Mountain for anything relating to dark magic, especially after it was featured in Fantasia. The Pictures at an Exhibition suite is also used, funnily enough, for art programmes. Although at one exhibition of Russian holograms staged in London, Pictures at an Exhibition was about the only well-known piece of Russian classical music that wasn't used.
- Uncommon Time: He was an early adopter of unconventional time signatures, such as in the "Promenade" from "Pictures at an Exhibition" which alternates between 5/4 and 6/4.