Modest Mussorgsky

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Modest Mussorgsky

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (1839-03-21 N.S. / 1839-03-09 O.S. – 1881-03-28 N.S. / 1881-03-16 O.S.) was a Russian composer who, along with the other members of the Five, created a Russian nationalist form of classical music.


  • My music must be an artistic reproduction of human speech in all its finest shades. That is, the sounds of human speech, as the external manifestations of thought and feeling must, without exaggeration or violence, become true, accurate music.
    • Letter to Lyudmila Shestakova, July 30, 1868; Jay Leyda and Sergei Bertensson The Musorgsky Reader (1947) p. 113.
  • I regard the people as a great being, inspired by a single idea. This is my problem. I strove to solve it in this opera.


  • Mussorgsky, in his vocal efforts, appears wilfully eccentric. His style impresses the Western ear as barbarously ugly.
  • I have no use whatever for Mussorgsky. His views may tally with mine, but I have never heard him express an intelligent idea. All in him is flabby and dull. He is, it seems to me, a thorough idiot.
    • Stasov in an 1863 letter to Balakirev.[1]
  • Yes, Mussorgsky is little short of an idiot.
    • Balakirev's reply to the above.[1]
  • Mussorgsky you very rightly call a hopeless case. In talent he is perhaps superior to all the [other members of The Five], but his nature is narrow-minded, devoid of any urge towards self-perfection, blindly believing in the ridiculous theories of his circle and in his own genius. In addition, he has a certain base side to his nature which likes coarseness, uncouthness, roughness. He flaunts his illiteracy, takes pride in his ignorance, mucks along anyhow, blindly believing in the infallibility of his genius. Yet he has flashes of talent which are, moreover, not devoid of originality.
    • Tchaikovsky, in a letter to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck.[2]

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  1. a b Calvocoressi, M.D. (January 1934). "Mussorgsky's Youth: In the Light of the Latest Information". The Musical Quarterly 20 (1): 6. Retrieved on June 29, 2015.
  2. Brown, David (2010). Tchaikovsky: The Man and his Music. Faber & Faber. p. 212. ISBN 9780571260935. Retrieved on June 29, 2015.