Sep 14, 2005 12:32 am
For Mussorgsky, music was a hobby that he could practice only in his spare time away from a busy career; he had no musical training of any kind, lived in a provincial country without a strong musical tradition and died at the age of 42. Yet he is regarded as one of the founding fathers of Russian music and wrote a handful of compositions that are solidly established classics of Western Musical Tradition.
Mussorgsky was not alone, The Mighty Five was not known for rapid production. I remember a comment that “this year Borodin has thought up a new idea for an opera, Mussorgsky has written a couple songs, Balakirev wrote part of a movement for a string quartet and Rimsky-Korsakov has edited one of his older works, it has been a very big year for Russian music.”
Mussorgsky started several opera projects. Khovanshchina was finished by others but is still regularly performed. Sorochintsy Fair was also finished by others but is not as popular. However “Night on Bald Mt.” from that opera has become a concert hall staple in at least one of the three or four versions he wrote. He wrote some pieces for the collaborative opera Mlada with Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Cui. He also wrote close to 20 piano pieces, a handful of short orchestral and choral works and enough songs to fill four CDs. If only my hobbies could be so productive.