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

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bunov and other partisans of alcoholic liquids, many times at the Malo Yaroslavetz.

I recall one scene. Musorgsky sits on a chair near the bottle-laden table and holds an open newspaper in both hands. I cannot say he sits very steadily on his chair, but his back is pressed quite firmly against the back of his chair, and though he sways a little, he doesn't lose his balance. The opened sheet of newspaper apparently proves that Musorgsky has the intention of occupying himself with reading. However, if you should carefully examine his face, swollen from excessive wine-bibbing, and his eyes, which wander wildly over the surface of the newspaper, you will come unmistakably to the conclusion that he would be barely able to decipher even one line of the paper by syllables. It is quiet in the room. Gorbunov is telling something about A. N. Ostrovsky, something about their trip to London together,--everyone roars with laughter, but Musorgsky sits there wheezing through his nose . . . Pavel Vasilyev has gotten up from the bottle-laden table, wanting to go over to Musorgsky. Maximov hastily rises and clutches Vasilyev's hand.--"Don't touch him, don't touch: he'll fall!" he says hoarsely, wagging his beard . . . --DMITRI STAKHEYEV


160. To VLADIMIR STASOV

23 November, '75

Saint-Saëns.50 Aida (Verdi).51 Sardanapalus (Famintzin).52 15, 19 and 20 November '75 in Petrograd.

When they name the author but not his works, then (as the old nurses of art used to say) that author is a somebody--worth something. Well, let's be kind: let's not start a dispute about the opinion of the old nurses of art! Who's this M. de Saint-Saëns?--one knows of him, partly from the papers, partly from conversations. What does M. de Saint-Saëns do?--he utilizes a miniature chamber orchestra and attains with it such solidity that he shows in rich orchestral powers tiny little thoughts inspired by a tiny versifier, and calls this crumb Danse macabre. The trend of M. de Saint-Saëns' mind was capable of digesting such an indigestible thought (a deliberation, perhaps?), and confronts the oppressive and aching "Dies irae--Danse macabre" of the Abbé Liszt with a sentimental miniature "Violino solo danse macabreM. de Saint-Saëns."

____________________
50
November 15--the second concert of the Imperial Russian Musical Society, at which Camille Saint-Saëns conducted the first Russian performance of his Danse macabre.
51
November 19--the Russian première (in Italian) of Verdi's Egyptian commission.
52
November 20--the première of the newest opera of Musorgsky's old antagonist.

-318-

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