Russian composer Modest Petrovich Musorgsky was born at Karevo on 21 March 1839 into a wealthy family. He learnt piano with his mother from the age of six, and in three years was able to perform works by Franz Liszt and John Field. At the Peterschule in St Petersburg he studied piano with Anton Herke, and then he entered the Cadet School of the Guards, where his pianistic skills made him very popular.
In St Petersburg he met Alexander Borodin and, more importantly, the Russian nationalist composer Alexander Dargomyzhsky, who invited him to musical soirees. It was through Dargomyzhsky that he met the critic Vladimir Stasov, fellow officer and composer César Cui, and Mily Balakirev. Balakirev took Musorgsky under his wing and expanded his musical frontiers.
His music is strikingly original, but it drew criticism from contemporaries as being wild, barbaric and badly written. Best known are his opera Boris Godunov, the piano cycle Pictures at an Exhibition and the orchestral work St John's Night on Bald Mountain.
Musorgsky was prone to alcoholism, and this gradually led, over a number of years, to his decline. He died on 28 March 1881, leaving several works, including the operas Khovanshchina and Sorochyntsi Fair, incomplete.
A selection of M&V articles about Modest Musorgsky
CD Spotlight. True Command - James Brawn plays Bach, Liszt, Musorgsky and Rachmaninov, recommended by Andrew Schartmann. 'The "Promenade" ... is like butter in Brawn's hands.'
DVD Spotlight. Disturbing Nightmares - Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, reviewed by Robert Anderson. 'I was surprised how quickly my patience ran out.'
CD Spotlight. Subtle Nuance - Steven Osborne plays Musorgsky and Prokofiev, recommended by Ron Bierman. 'This is an outstanding release.'
Deeper Probings - A recital by Jong-Gyung Park, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Angels and Demons - Giuseppe Pennisi visits Sagra Musicale Umbra 2012
CD Spotlight. Bewitching Stuff - Symphonic poems for piano duet, recommended by Howard Smith. '... evocatively and thrillingly conveyed by Goldstone and Clemmow.'
Ensemble. Born to Excel - Recent concerts in London, heard by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Superb Playing - Bill Newman listens to a selection of instrumental chamber music in London
Ensemble. Historical Tragedy - Giuseppe Pennisi visits Palermo for the critical edition of Musorgsky's 'Boris Godunov'
Emotional Impressions - Bill Newman listens to Neapolitan pianist Clelia Cafiero
Ensemble. Plenty to Bite Into - Derby Concert Orchestra celebrates Christmas, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. A Fine Collection - Operatic bass arias sung by William Powers, heard by Paul Sarcich. '... a formidable mixture of operatic styles ...'
CD Spotlight. Eyes of History - Piano music by Mussorgsky and Prokofiev, heard by Robert Anderson. '... good value ...'
DVD Spotlight. A Disparate Experiment - 'Aria - Special Edition', reviewed by Howard Smith. 'You never know what you're gonna get.'
Ensemble. An Eclectic Mix - Mieczyslaw Weinberg's 'The Portrait' at Opera North, experienced by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. A Compelling Magnetism - Elena Kuschnerova plays Musorgsky, heard by Howard Smith. '... superbly evocative ...'
Ensemble. Exquisite Performance - Metropolitan Opera's live HD transmission of 'Boris Godunov', enjoyed by Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Performance to Cherish - Lawrence Budmen submits a further report from the Tanglewood Festival 2010
Stimulating Fare - Eugene Alcalay plays Bartók, Dutilleux and Beethoven, enjoyed by Malcolm Miller
Ensemble. Something Magical - Andris Nelsons conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Brilliantly Festive - Mike Wheeler listens to the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra
Ensemble. Tonal Luxuriance - Lawrence Budmen reports from Tanglewood 2009
Vigorous and Declamatory - Sacha Grynyuk plays for Derby Chamber Music, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Portraits in Music - 'The Sucker Punch Requiem' by Lisle Ellis, enjoyed by Ron Bierman. 'Recommended ... to classical listeners interested in expanding their listening domain.'
Ensemble. A Passionate Attraction - The Cleveland Orchestra in Miami, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
CD Spotlight. A Skilful Balance - The Icicle Creek Piano Trio, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... rhythmically brisk, considered performances ...'
CD Spotlight. Fascinating Rarities - Taneyev string trios, heard by Julian Jacobson. '... a performance of real commitment and assurance ...'
DVD Spotlight. An Inevitable Conclusion - Musorgsky's 'Khovanshchina', reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... the admirable Barcelona chorus and orchestra ...'
Ensemble. Poetic Touches - The Russian State Symphony Orchestra plays Musorgsky, Prokofiev and Rakhmaninov, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Enjoyable Colours - Russian music from Stokowski, reviewed by Patric Standford. 'The recordings do not show half a century of wear ...'
Ask Alice - Questions about Mussorgsky and about living women composers, fielded by deputy Classical Music Agony Aunt Kelly Ferjutz
Ensemble. Thrilling Performance - The Moscow State Symphony Orchestra visits Nottingham, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Superbly Measured - Music by Haskell Small and Mussorgsky, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... indisputably fine pianism ...'
CD Spotlight. Fine Indeed - Stokowski symphonic transcriptions, recommended by Howard Smith. '... an unqualified testament to Stokowski's magic.'
Ensemble. The music of Julian Dawes - Malcolm Miller was at the first performance of 'Eleven Hebrew Folksongs'
CD Spotlight. Aesthetic and didactic - Music by Respighi and Mussorgsky, reviewed by George Balcombe. 'Tadaaki Otaka conjures the composer's unique sound ...'
Ensemble. Bravura virtuosity - Lawrence Budmen was at the Miami International Piano Festival
Ensemble. Contrasting pianists - by Bill Newman
Record box. Expanding repertoire - A Daniel Rubinoff saxophone recital, reviewed by Patric Standford
CD Spotlight. An indelible impression - Ewa Podles sings Russian songs and arias, appreciated by Maria Nockin. '... incredibly well done ...'
Record box. Architectural dimensions - John Bell Young listens to Evgeny Kissin's Mussorgsky
Japanese tone painting - Takemitsu, Schumann and Musorgsky. Malcolm Miller at a recent recital by Noriko Ogawa
Record Box - The Russian Psyche - Sadness in song, with Basil Ramsey