Composer of the Week: Modest Mussorgsky

photo courtesy of Wikipedia
photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Modest Mussorgsky wrote some wonderfully iconic additions to the classical repertoire, and that is why he is our Composer of the Week!

b. March 21, 1839 in Karevo, Russia
d. March 28, 1881 in St. Petersburg, Russia

Modest Mussorgsky began studying piano with his mother at age six and went on to become one of “The Five” nationalist Russian composers. He worked as a civil servant for much of his life and led his life as a composer in tandem. Though raised as a part of a wealthy family, his wealth slowly disappeared during the Great Reform. Mussorgsky later became an alcoholic — an addiction that ultimately ended his life.

Mussorgsky’s most famous works include Pictures at an Exhibition –actually inspired by a friend’s gallery exhibition– and St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain, which was later revised by Mussorgsky and fellow “Five” member Rimsky-Korsakov to become Night on Bald Mountain. We all know and love this wonderful work as a result of the large roll it played in Disney’s Fantasia.

Where to start:

-start with the famous stuff! Pictures at an Exhibition was originally written for piano. Maurice Ravel later orchestrated the work for full orchestra. Listen to both to hear the difference! It’s fascinating to hear how Ravel chose to orchestrate the piece.

-watch our videos below!

Pictures at an Exhibition (piano version):

Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestral version):

Night on Bald Mountain in Fantasia (even creepier than I remember!):

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