The Musorgsky Reader: A Life of Modeste Petrovich Musorgsky in Letters and Documents

By Jay Leyda; Sergei Bertensson et al. | Go to book overview

leave Petersburg--this meant not only deserting his mother, with whom he had lived without a separation since birth, but also to desert Dargomizhsky, Balakirev, Cui, and his musical studies . . --VLADIMIR STASOV

On July 5, 1858, Musorgsky resigned his commission, giving as his reason the impossibility of separation from friends and family, and left almost immediately with his brother for Tikhvin, to take a cure.


5a. MILI BALAKIREV to VLADIMIR STASOV,10 St. Petersburg [Extracts]

Jericho, 5th July, Saturday, 1858

DEAR BRETHREN!

With great pain I've come to Jericho.11 On the train, with a little string pulling, I landed in the mail car, taking there at night all my belongings from the second class (for which I had a ticket), among them the cane which at some unknown point disappeared, causing me much sorrow. This circumstance was even more peculiar in that I had not taken the cane with me on the platform, so that no one could have stolen it, nor would anyone have attempted it. There's something extraordinary, supernatural, here. Unluckily I am somewhat superstitious and I can't help thinking that the loss of the cane means the loss of something good for myself, but I can see from here that you are laughing at me, so I conclude my discussion of this matter! I was quite well while traveling: my head didn't ache; I washed at the station and spent a lot of money on food; they pulled 50 kopeks out of me for a cold fish soup, with a rotten salmon which you, Romeo, would doubtless have loved. The only passenger I talked with was

____________________
10
Vladimir Stasov was the only "member" of the Balakirev Circle who was not a musician: he was its ideologue, its spiritual and literary adviser, its propaganda minister. One peculiarity that he had in common with the rest of the Circle, with the single exception of Balakirev, was that his profession (criticism and history) was not his regular job, for he was librarian at the St. Petersburg Public Library. Over and above both profession and job was the all-embracing cause of panslavism, extending to his off-duty appearance (beard, boots, peasant blouses, boyar caps, etc.) and to an ancient Slavic vocabulary, intoned in a booming voice. Both for his extravagant manners and for his defense of Johann Sebastian Bach, the Circle members dubbed him Bach, and sometimes General Bach. In this letter Balakirev also calls him Romeo.
11
Not only the ideas in this letter but the style as well was emulated by Musorgsky (see particularly Letter 10). In the Circle, Moscow was always referred to as "Jericho."

-7-

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