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

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

145a. ALEXANDER BORODIN to LUBOV KARMALINA, Fortress Zakatali [Extract]

S. Peterburg 15 April, 1875

. . . You've probably heard somewhat of our musical affairs from our musical friends and so on. Cui is active--has done a lot of work on his Tisbé. Modeste writes Khovanshchina and has done quite a bit, too. Korsinka is fussing around the Free School, writing all sorts of counterpoint, learning and teaching all sorts of musical cleverness. Writing a textbook on instrumentation--a phenomenal thing, there is and never has been anything like it.20 But meanwhile he has no time and has put aside work [composition] for his leisure time. During Lent he conducted a Free School concert21 as you undoubtedly have been informed. Meanwhile, he doesn't compose music. Undoubtedly, you've heard a lot about discord and disintegration and the like in our circle. I don't look on this exactly as Ludmila Ivanovna and many others do. So far I see nothing in this but a natural situation. As long as all were in the position of eggs under a setting hen (--thinking of Balakirev as the latter), we all were more or less alike. As soon as the fledglings broke out of their shells--they grew feathers. Each of them had to have different feathers; and when their wings grew--each flew to wherever his nature drew him. Lack of resemblance in tendency, aspiration, tastes, character of creative power, etc. is, in my opinion, exactly what is good and not at all sad about this affair. It must be thus when an artistic individuality is already built, ripened and strengthened. ( Balakirev somehow never understood this and still doesn't.) Many now regret that Korsakov turned backward and launched himself into a study of musical antiquity. I don't mourn over this. This is quite understandable: Korsakov has grown in an opposite direction to, for example, mine. He started out with Glinka, Liszt, Berlioz, and of course grew dissatisfied with these and thereupon launched himself in that region unknown to him which has the interest of novelty. I began with the old masters and only finally moved over to the new ones . . .

____________________
20
In his Chronicle Rimsky-Korsakov tells the whole story of the conception and death of this project.
21
This unexpectedly "classic" program took place on March 27, in the City Hall, and included excerpts from Handel Israel in Egypt and from Robert Franz's arrangement of Bach St. Matthew Passion (sung by Kamenskaya and Kosetzkaya, mentioned in Musorgsky's letter of March 18), and works by Haydn, Palestrina, and Allegri.

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