Modest Mussorgsky

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Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (also spelled Musorgsky, Moussorgsky Russian: Моде́ст Петро́вич Му́соргский, Modest Petrovič Musorgskij) (21 March [O.S. 9 March] 1839 – 28 March [O.S. 16 March] 1881), one of the Russian composers known as 'The Five', was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period. He strove to achieve a uniquely Russian musical identity, often in deliberate defiance of the established conventions of Western music.

Many of his works were inspired by Russian history, Russian folklore, and other nationalist themes, including the opera Boris Godunov, the orchestral tone poem Night on Bald Mountain, and the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.

For many years Mussorgsky's works were mainly known in versions revised or completed by other composers. Many of his most important compositions have recently come into their own in their original forms, and some of the original scores are now also available.



Early years

Mussorgsky was born in Karevo, Russia in the province of Pskov, 400 km (249 miles) south-south-east of Saint Petersburg. His wealthy and land-owning family, the noble family of Mussorgsky, is reputedly descended from the first Ruthenian ruler, Rurik, through the sovereign princes of Smolensk. At age six Mussorgsky began receiving piano lessons from his mother, herself a trained pianist. His progress was sufficiently rapid that three years later he was able to perform a John Field concerto and works by Franz Liszt for family and friends. At 10, he and his brother were taken to Saint Petersburg to study at the elite Peterschule (St. Peter's School). While there, Modest studied the piano with the noted Anton Gerke. In 1852, the 12-year-old Mussorgsky published a piano piece titled "Porte-enseigne Polka" at his father's expense.

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