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Modest Musorgsky was one of the towering figures of nineteenth-century Russian music. Now, in this new volume in the Master Musicians series, David Brown gives us the first life-and-works study of Musorgsky to appear in English for over a half century. Indeed, this is the largest such study of Musorgsky to have appeared outside Russia.
Brown shows how Musorgsky, though essentially an amateur with no systematic training in composition, emerged in his first opera, Boris Godunov, as a supreme musical dramatist. Indeed, in this opera, and in certain of his piano pieces in Pictures at an Exhibition, Musorgsky produced some of the most startlingly novel music of the whole nineteenth century. He was also one of the most original of all song composers, with a prodigious gift for uncovering the emotional content of a text. As Brown illuminates Musorgsky's work, he also paints a detailed portrait of the composer's life. He describes how, unlike the systematic and disciplined Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky was a fitful composer. When the inspiration was upon him, he could apply himself with superhuman intensity, as he did when composing the initial version of Boris Godunov. Sadly, Musorgsky deteriorated in his final years, suffering periods of inner turmoil, when his alcoholism would be out of control. Finally, unemployed and all but destitute, he died at age forty-two. His failure to complete his two remaining operas, Khovanshchina and Sorochintsy Fair, Brown concludes, is one of music's greatest tragedies.
Written by one of the leading authorities on nineteenth-century Russian composers, Musorgsky is the finest available biography of this giant of Russian music.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
A Note on Dates
1 - Childhood and Early Years
2 - The Making of a Composer I
3 - The Making of a Composer II
4 - The Early Songs I
5 - Salammbo
6 - The Early Songs II
7 - St John's Night on the Bare Mountain: More Songs
8 - The Marriage: Towards Boris
9 - Boris Godunov: Composition and Production
10 - Boris Godunov: The Music
11 - Life alongside Boris I: The Nursery Completed
12 - Life alongside Boris II: Khovanshchina Begun
12 - Two Relationships: Pictures at an Exhibition and Sunless
14 - Khovanshchina
15 - Songs and Dances of Death: Last Songs
16 - Sorochintsy Fair
17 - Final Years
18 - Postlude: The Century Since
Appendices A, B, C, D