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Mussorgsky - Piano Music

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) was born into a wealthy landowning family in Karevo, Russia. He developed a great facility at the piano, but eventually chose a military career. In 1857 he met Balakirev, whom he asked for composition lessons. The following year Mussorgsky passed through a spiritual and emotional crisis and resigned his army commission with the intention of composing full-time. His music soon began to enjoy public performances but his mental instability continued, and he was preoccupied helping to manage his family´s estate. The decline in his family´s fortunes led him to accept low-level civil service positions. In 1865 he underwent his first serious bout of alcoholism (probably as a reaction to his mother´s death that year) and in 1867 he was dismissed from his post. He spent the summer at his brother´s country house, where he wrote his first important orchestral work, St. John´s Night on the Bare Mountain. On his return to St. Petersburg Mussorgsky, like the other members of the Balakirev circle (ironically dubbed the ´Mighty Handful´), became interested in operatic naturalism. Early in 1869 Mussorgsky re-entered government service and, in more settled conditions, was able to complete the original version of the opera Boris Godunov. This was rejected by the Marinsky Theatre and Mussorgsky set about revising it. A successful production was finally mounted in February 1874. Progress on another historical opera, Khovanshchina, was interrupted mainly because the composer’s heavy drinking left him incapable of sustained creative effort. Still, some of Mussorgsky’s greatest works belong to this period, including the song cycle Songs and Dances of Death and the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition, inspired by a memorial exhibition of drawings by his friend Victor Hartmann. When Mussorgsky was obliged to leave the his government post, the contralto Darya Leonova provided him with some employment and a home after he had turned to her, saying that there was nothing left for him but to beg in the streets; he was suffering from alcoholic epilepsy, and in February 1881 was taken to hospital, where he died a month later.

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Total pieces by Mussorgsky: 24

TitleASTKey Published Type Level
A Child's Scherzo - First Version D Major 1859 Piece 8+
A Child's Scherzo - Second Version D Major 1860 Piece 8
A Tear G Minor 1880 Piece 6
Childhood Memory B Minor 1857 Piece 8
Fair Scene - from The Fair at Sorochintsi n/a 1880 Transcription 8+
First Punishment A Minor 1865 Piece 7
Hopak of the Young Ukrainians, from The Fair at Sorochintsi - First Version n/a 1880 Transcription 8
Hopak of the Young Ukrainians, from The Fair at Sorochintsi - Second Version n/a 1880 Transcription 8
In the Village B Minor 1880 Piece 7
Intermezzo in the Classic Manner - First Version B Minor 1861 Piece 7
Intermezzo in the Classic Manner - Transcription B Minor 1867 Transcription 8+
Meditation: Album Leaf n/a 1880 Piece 6
Near the Southern Shore of the Crimea: Capriccio B-flat Minor 1880 Piece 7
Nurse and I E Minor 1865 Piece 7
On the Southern Shore of the Crimea n/a 1880 Piece 8
Passionate Impromptu - First Version F-sharp Major 1859 Piece 7
Passionate Impromptu - Second Version F-sharp Major 1859 Piece 7
Pictures at an Exhibition n/a 1886 Suite 8+
Reverie E-flat Minor 1865 Piece 7
Scherzo - First Version C-sharp Minor 1858 Piece 8
Scherzo - Second Version C-sharp Minor 1858 Piece 8+
Sonata in C for four hands C Major 1860 Four hands 8
The Capricious One n/a 1865 Piece 8+
The Seamstress D-flat Major 1871 Piece 8+

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