The most original and influential of the 19th-century Russian nationalist composers.
Born March 21, 1839, in Karevo, Mussorgsky was educated privately and at a military academy in Saint Petersburg. When he was 18 years old Mussorgsky met the Russian nationalist composer Aleksandr Dargomyzhsky, through whom he joined the circle of Russian nationalist composers now known as The Five. In 1858 he resigned from military service to devote himself to music; after 1863 he supported himself as a government clerk.
Musically, Mussorgsky was self-taught, except for some study with two members of The Five, Mily Balakirev and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. His bold, unorthodox harmonies, based on the scales of Russian folk music, influenced later non-Russian composers. His songs, among the finest of the 19th century, reflect his desire to reproduce the rhythms and contours of Russian speech. So also does his masterpiece, the opera Boris Godunov, based on a drama by the Russian author Aleksandr Pushkin. Completed in 1868 and first produced (after considerable changes) in 1874, it is a monumental work, unusual in its musical and dramatic use of the chorus and admired for its psychological insight and its evocation of the Russian people. In 1896 it was reorchestrated and in places reharmonized by Rimsky-Korsakov and is best known in this version. Mussorgsky's other works include the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition (1874, orchestrated in 1922 by the French composer Maurice Ravel); the symphonic poem St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain (1867; also known as Night on Bald Mountain); the song cycles The Nursery (1872) and Songs and Dances of Death (1877); and the unfinished operas Kovanshchina, completed by Rimsky-Korsakov, and The Fair at Sorochinsk, completed by César Cui, another member of The Five. Mussorgsky died on March 28, 1881, in St. Petersburg.
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Mussorgsky, Modest Petrovich životopis
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