• Composer of the Week:   Modest Mussorgsky 

    Mussorg. Modest Mussorgsky was born 250 miles south of St. Petersburg, Russia in 1839.   His family was wealthy and owned land.  He also descended from Russian royalty (in fact, from the first ruler of Russia).  At age 6, his mother began teaching him piano.  By age 13, he enrolled in a military school, as he was expected to do.  Life was difficult there, but he continued his interest in music throughout his time as a student.

    By age 17, Mussorgsky had met other, better-known composers.  He eventually became known as a member of “The Five,” a group of five Russian composers that became famous for their music that honored Russian traditions.  These composers rejected the traditions of composers from England, France, and Germany. Instead, they wrote music that glorified Russia, used Russian folk melodies and history, and was unlike music of Western Europe.  

    Mussorgsky’s most famous pieces came after he turned 30.  His “Night on Bald Mountain” is well-known, but was never performed during his lifetime (the version that is usually heard was actually rewritten by another composer).  Later in life, he composed “Pictures at an Exhibition.”  This program piece represents a person walking through an art gallery, looking at various paintings.  The original is a suite of ten piano pieces, though the more famous version was transcribed for orchestra by composer Maurice Ravel.

    Mussorgsky suffered from alcoholism since he was in his 20’s. He died in 1881, just days after sitting for the portrait for which he is most famous (pictured above). 



     Map of St. Petersburg area (Russia) 



    Musical Examples


    Night on Bald Mountain, used in the original Fantasia (1940):