From childhood Mussorgsky studied the piano. His first teacher was his mother, and he continued his studies while a student at St. Peter's School (Petrischule) and at the Cadet School of the Guards, both in St. Petersburg. Mussorgsky served in the Russian Imperial Guard until 1858 when he focused his career on his music.
Mussorgsky and Borodin first met in 1856 when both were stationed at a military hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Mussorgsky's musical circle expanded greatly in 1856 when he met Alexander Dargomyzhsky, a Russian composer whose influence on Russian musical style rivaled that of Mikhail Glinka. Through Dargomyzhsky, Mussorgsky met both Balakirev and Cui, as well as the music critic Vladimir Stasov.
Balakirev worked with Mussorgsky to expand his musical knowledge, which up to that point had been focused on piano repertoire.
Rimsky-Korsakov was a colleague of Mussorgsky. He re-orchestrated Mussorgsky's opera Boris Gudonov in 1896 and revised it in 1908. He also completed Khovanshchina, an opera that Mussorgsky left unfinished at the time of his death.
This section presents a sampling of Modest Mussorgsky's compositions. Click here for an extended list of Mussorgsky's works.
Night on Bald Mountain, also known as Night on Bare Mountain, is a tone poem that depicts a witches' sabbath occurring on St. John's Eve. Along with Rimsky-Korsakov's Sadko, Night on Bald Mountain is considered to be one of the first tone poems by a Russian composer.
Mussorgsky never heard the work performed during his lifetime. The version with which most listeners are familiar is an arrangement that fellow Mighty Five member Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov completed in 1886, five years after Mussorgsky's death. A version of this arrangement appeared in Disney's animated film Fantasia (1940).
Mussorgsky's original tone poem was published in 1968.
Click here to listen to a performance of Mussorgsky's original orchestration of Night on Bald Mountain.
Click here to listen to a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's arrangement of Night on Bald Mountain.
Mussorgsky's Boris Gudonov tells the story of the Russian ruler Boris Gudonov, who ruled as Tsar from 1598 to 1605, and his nemesis, the False Dmitriy, who reigned from 1605 to 1606. Mussorgsky composed the libretto in Russian, based on Alexander Pushkin's play of the same name; he later added details from Nikolay Karamzin's History of the Russian State to an 1872 revision.
The artist composed two versions of the opera. The Imperial Theatres rejected the original version for its lack of an important prima donna female role. The revised version, including such a role, premiered in 1874 in St. Petersburg.
Boris Gudonov is the only opera that Mussorgsky completed during his lifetime and is considered to be his masterpiece.
Click here to listen to a performance of the Prologue from Scene 1 of Boris Gudonov.
Click here to listen to a performance of the Coronation Scene from Boris Gudonov.
Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition in memory of his friend Viktor Hartmann, an artist, architect, and designer who shared Mussorgsky's devotion to Russian art. Hartmann died suddenly of an aneurysm in 1873. The Russian critic Vladimir Stasov organized an exhibition of Hartmann's work at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg.
The composer takes the listener on a tour of this exhibition, illustrating musically ten of the artist's works and connecting them with a promenade as the listener walks between the paintings.
Mussorgsky wrote Pictures as a work for solo piano. Several artists have arranged and orchestrated the work; Maurice Ravel's orchestration is among the best known.
Click here to listen to a performance of the original piano arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition.
Click here to listen to a performance of Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition.
"Boris Godunov (opera)." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 19 June 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link
"List of compositions by Modest Mussorgsky." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 28 June 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link
"Modest Mussorgsky." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 24 June 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link
"Night on Bald Mountain." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 30 May 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link
"Pictures at an Exhibition." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 June 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link