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

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

An Article by ALEXANDER SEROV

THE FIFTH, SIXTH AND SEVENTH EVENINGS OF THE RUSSIAN MUSICAL SOCIETY

in Muzikalni Vestnik, January 17, 1860

[Extract]

. . . It was even more pleasing to encounter the warm sympathy of the public to the Russian composer A. [sic] P. Musorgsky, making his debut with a fine but regretfully too brief orchestral piece.45

This scherzo has not the interest, in my opinion, that the scherzo of C. A. Cui has, performed in the fourth concert, but it shows decided talent in the young musician, beginning his career as composer.

It is noteworthy that the symphonic fragment of a composer as yet unknown, side by side with the music of a "famous" maestro,46 not only lost nothing thereby, but gained a very great deal. . .


16. To MILI BALAKIREV

10 February, 1860

DEAR MILI,

Thank God, it looks as though I were beginning to recover from my severe, unendurably excruciating sufferings, mental and physical.-- You remember, my dear, how two years ago we were walking down Sadovaya Street (you were on your way home); it was summertime. Just before our walk we had been reading Manfred,47 and I became so electrified with the sufferings of this lofty human spirit that I immediately said to you, "How I would like to be Manfred" (I was a mere child at the time) and evidently fate decided to grant me my wish --I became literally "manfredized," my soul slew my flesh. Now I am obliged to take every kind of antidote. Dear Mili, I know you love me; for God's sake keep a tight rein on me when we are talking together, and don't let me go wild; for a time it is absolutely necessary to give up both musical activities and every kind of intense brain work so that I can fully recover; my prescription--everything must be done for the material cure as much as possible at the expense of the mental side. The reasons for the irritation of my nerves are clear

____________________
45
On January 11, 1860, the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Anton Rubinstein, gave the first performance of an orchestral work by Musorgsky--his Scherzo in B-flat.
46
The maestro was Meyerbeer, whose Struensee immediately preceded Musorgsky's scherzo on the program.
47
Byron Manfred was required reading among European romanticists, who may be considered the direct forebears of the Russian nationalists.

-23-

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