Moussorgsky, Modest Petrovich

Moussorgsky, Modest Petrovich

(mədyĕst` pĕtrô`vĭch mo͞osôrg`skē), 1839–81, Russian composer. His name is also transliterated as Mussorgsky and Musorgsky. He was one of the first to promote a national Russian style. A member of the minor aristocracy and an officer in the Imperial Guard until 1858, he was later a government clerk. His study with Mili BalakirevBalakirev, Mili Alekseyevich
, 1837–1910, Russian composer and conductor, leader of the group called the Five. He founded (1862) the Free School of Music in St. Petersburg and conducted (1867–69) the Russian Music Society and (1883–94) the Imperial Chapel Choir
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 and his associations with other composers encouraged him to become a composer himself, although his musical training was sketchy and never satisfied him. His masterpiece is the opera Boris Godunov (1868–69, revised 1871–72, produced St. Petersburg, 1874), in which he successfully combined realism and lyricism. Other important works are the opera Khovanshchina (1886); the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition (1874), later orchestrated by Maurice Ravel;Ravel, Maurice
, 1875–1937, French composer, b. in the Pyrenees. He entered the Paris Conservatory in 1889, where he was later a student of Fauré. Ravel became a leading exponent of impressionism.
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 A Night on Bald Mountain (1867), for orchestra; and many songs and three song cycles.

Moussorgsky succumbed to alcoholism in a Saint Petersburg hospital at the age of 41. Most of his music was edited and revised after his death by Nicolai Rimsky-KorsakovRimsky-Korsakov, Nicolai Andreyevich
, 1844–1908, Russian composer; one of the group of nationalist composers called The Five. He prepared himself for a naval career, but after meeting Balakirev in 1861 he turned seriously to composing.
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 and others, often to such an extent that the originals were seriously misrepresented. Moussorgsky made much use of Russian folk songs, and his settings of Russian texts are unexcelled. Expression and communication were paramount for him; form, inconsequential. In working out a Russian idiom, his rejection of many European standards and practices influenced not only Russian composers but also Claude DebussyDebussy, Claude Achille
, 1862–1918, French composer, exponent of musical impressionism. He studied for 11 years at the Paris Conservatory, receiving its Grand Prix de Rome in 1884 for his cantata L'Enfant Prodigue.
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 and other French composers.


See letters and documents in The Musorgsky Reader, ed. by J. Leyda and S. Bertensson (1947, repr. 1970); biographies by M. D. Calvocoressi (1946, rev. ed. 1974), V. I. Seroff (1968), O. von Riesemann (tr. 1929, repr. 1970), and D. Brown (2003).

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