Profile of Modest Mussorgsky

Modest Mussorgsky. Public Domain Portrait by Ilya Yefimovich Repin from Wikimedia Commons

Born:

March 21, 1839; his father was a landowner.

Birthplace:

Karevo, Russia

Died:

March 28, 1881 in St. Petersburg

Also Known As:

His full name was Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky; a Russian composer who was a member of "The Five" also known as "The Russian Five" or "The Mighty Five." This group, which was founded in the 1860s, was composed of 5 Russian composers who wanted to establish a nationalist school of Russian music.

Type of Compositions:

Mussorgsky wrote operas, songs, piano pieces and melodies. He is especially known for his vivid portrayal of Russian life through his works.

Influence:

His mother taught him how to play the piano. As a child Mussorgsky also had a nurse who told him stories of Russian fairy tales; this had a huge impact on him. He was taught by Anton Gerke who later became a professor at St. Petersburg Conservatory. Later on, Russian composer Mily Balakirev became his teacher.

Notable Works:

His notable works include "Podpraporshchik" (1852, his first composition), songs such as “Darling Savishna," “Hopak” and “The Seminarist," his symphonic poem "Ivanova noch na Lysoy gore" (1867) and his famous opera "Boris Godunov" (premiered in 1874, St. Petersburg). Mussorgsky died before he could finish his opera "Khovanshchina" but it was completed by his friend and former flatmate Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov.

Interesting Facts:

Originally, Mussorgsky's father wanted him to pursue a military career. In 1849, Mussorgsky was enrolled at the Peter-Paul School and later on the Cadets of the Guard in 1852. By 1856 Mussorgsky was already a lieutenant and he joined the Preobrazhensky Guards. It was during that time when he met fellow officer, Aleksandr Borodin, who would later on become a respected composer himself.

That same year he was invited to Aleksandr Dargomyzhsky's home, another Russian composer. Mussorgsky eventually quit the army and worked as a civil servant at the Ministry of Communications.

Other Facts:

Arseny Golenishchev-Kutuzov, a distant relative, inspired Mussorgksy to write two cycles of melodies - "Bez solntsa" and "Pesni i plyaski smerti." His "Kartinki s vystavki" (Pictures from an Exhibition) was inspired by the death of his friend Victor Hartmann. This was orchestrated by Maurice Ravel in 1922. Although he was a brilliant composer, Mussorgsky had bouts of loneliness which drove him to alcohol. This greatly affected his health, landed him in hospital and caused his eventual death.

Music Sample:

Listen to a music sample of Mussorgky's "Pictures From an Exhibition" courtesy of YouTube.