Cover image for The life of Musorgsky
The life of Musorgsky
Emerson, Caryl.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
194 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
Childhood and youth, 1839-1856 -- Apprenticeship in St. Petersburg, 1820s-1860s: composers' evenings and the commune -- Conservatories, "circles, " and Musorgsky at the far musical edge -- 1868-1874: Musorgsky and Russian history -- The 1870s: Musorgsky and death -- Beyond tragedy: the final years.

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ML410.M97 E42 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating
ML410.M97 E42 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This is a brief biography of Russia's greatest musical dramatist, Modest Musorgsky (1839-1881), known the world over for his opera Boris Godunov, for his innovative realistic art songs, and for his pianistic work "Pictures at an Exhibition." Yet during his life Musorgsky had no institutional connections, no "degree," no family of his own, not even a permanent address. This book emphasizes the psychological and economic factors that contributed to the composer's remarkable autodidactic rise and tragic, premature end.

Author Notes

Caryl Emerson is A. Watson Armour III University Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Lack of facts and confusion about Musorgsky's music, much of which was left unfinished and in multiple versions, have stood in the way of an adequate biography. Compounding the situation have been inaccurate accounts by the composer's librarian friend and first biographer, Vladimir Stasov, and the revisions of various well-meaning music editors, from Rimsky-Korsakov to Dmitri Shostakovich. The Musorgsky glasnost began about a decade ago, and initial results were eventually published in Richard Taruskin's Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (CH, Jun'93) and Emerson and Robert William Oldani's Modest Musorgsky and Boris Godunov (1994). Emerson (Slavic languages and literature, Princeton) now offers a relatively brief, nontechnical, and elegantly written volume that draws on primary, frequently retranslated documents. Her six chapters follow Musorgsky's life alongside the often-tumultuous, 19th-century Russian cultural milieu. Despite a "musical postlude" by David Geppert (emeritus, Eastman School of Music), the interested reader will have to go elsewhere for a discussion of Musorgsky's music, even for a list of works. Nevertheless, because M.D. Calvocoressi's Mussorgsky (1946; rev. 1962, 1976) is the only comparable alternative, this book is recommended for all collections. M. Meckna; Texas Christian University

Table of Contents

David Geppert
List of illustrationsp. vi
Note on sources and translationsp. viii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
1 Childhood and youth, 1839-1856p. 1
2 Apprenticeship in St. Petersburg, 1850s-1860s: composers' evenings and the communep. 26
3 Conservatories, "circles," and Musorgsky at the far musical edgep. 55
4 1868-1874: Musorgsky and Russian historyp. 81
5 The 1870s: Musorgsky and deathp. 112
6 Beyond tragedy: the final yearsp. 136
Epilogue: the Musorgsky problem, then and nowp. 157
Musical postlude: Appraising the artistic productp. 169
Notesp. 179
Selected bibliographyp. 188
Indexp. 190