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

By Jay Leyda; Sergei Bertensson et al. | Go to book overview
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III
Boris Godunov 1868 - 1872

". . . the friendly companionship in the home of Shestakova with Professor V. Nikolsky caused the creation of the grand opera Boris Godunov, based on a subject by the great Pushkin." Thus Musorgsky records (in No. 219) the inception of his best-known work.

No sooner had Musorgsky conceived the idea of an opera on this subject than he received from his hostess the volume of Pushkin's works containing the historical drama of Boris Godunov, with interleaved blank pages on which Musorgsky could sketch his libretto.1

This work copy, now in the Russian Public Library, Leningrad, contains Musorgsky's text of the first version of his libretto (to the end of Act II) as well as the following notations, the only factual record, aside from the dating on the autograph scores, of Musorgsky's activity during this most satisfying period of his life.

At the close of the first period of this work on Boris Godunov Musorgsky returned this working text to its donor with one more inscription on its first page:

Here you have, dear Ludmila Ivanovna, the completion of the labors of which you have been witness.

27th January, 1871.
MODESTE MUSORGSKY.

Underneath this inscription there is another, to the other firmest ally of Boris Godunov:

1874, 31 March, I transfer all rights in this book to Bach, i.e., Vladimir Vasilyevich Stasov.

LUDMILA SHESTAKOVA.

____________________
1
Gerald Abraham has demonstrated both the physical and artistic relationships between Pushkin's drama and Musorgsky's opera. This useful analysis was published in Music and Letters, January 1945.

-126-

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