Caryl Emerson

The Life of Musorgsky

Reading sample

Musical Lives

Boek (softcover)

Item no.771044
Author/ComposerCaryl Emerson
Scope218 pages; 14 × 21.6 cm
Release year1999
Publisher/ProducerCambridge University Press
Producer No.9780521485074
30.60 €
Delivery time approx. 1–2 weeks.
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Modest Musorgsky is Russia's greatest musical dramatist. When he died in 1881 in St Petersburg at the age of forty-two, in poverty and relative obscurity, he was known for a single opera, Boris Godunov and a handful of eccentric 'realistic' songs set to prosaic Russian texts. He had no institutional connections, no 'degree', no family of his own, not even a permanent address. Except for Franz Liszt, no composer of stature knew of him outside Russia. Through the loyal (if controversial) intervention of his friends, his works survived in various editings into the early twentieth century, when revivals and evolving musical tastes restored him to new life. This account of his life, first published in 1999, emphasizes the psychological and economic factors that contributed to the composer's remarkable rise and tragic, premature end and is the first brief biography in English to make use of materials published in the new, de-Sovietized Russian academic climate.

  • The first concise biography to make use of materials published in the new de-Sovietized Russian academic climate
  • Includes a chapter on Musorgsky's contact with Repin and other visual artists of the Realist school
  • Includes a discussion of the two historical operas


  • Preface
  • 1 Childhood and youth (1839–56)
  • 2 Apprenticeship in Petersburg, 1850–60s: composers' evenings and the commune
  • 3 Conservatories, 'circles', and Musorgsky at the musical edge
  • 4 1868–74: Musorgsky and Russian history
  • 5 The 1870s: Musorgsky and death
  • 6 Beyond tragedy: the final years
  • Epilogue: the Musorgsky problem, then and now
  • Musical appendix: what to look for in Musorgsky's style