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

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

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

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

Excerpt

In 1820, Piotr Alexeyevich Musorgsky, the illegitimate son of an officer of the Preobrazhensky Guards and a serf woman, was legitimized by decree of the Senate, and inherited his father's estate of some 10,000 desyatins in the province of Pskov, 150 desyatins in the province of Yaroslav, and an unknown quantity of serfs. In 1832 [?] Piotr Alexeyevich married Yulia Ivanovna Chirikova, the daughter of a landowner in modest circumstances, and the family settled on their Pskov estate, near the village of Karevo, Toropetz County, by the two lakes of Zhistza and Dvina .

On March 9, 1839, their fourth son was born--Modeste Petrovich Musorgsky. When he was ten, the entire family moved to St. Petersburg for the purpose of entering Modeste and his only surviving brother Philarète (born in 1836) in the secondary school of SS. Peter and Paul. From the start of the regular curriculum, Modeste's father also arranged for his younger son's piano lessons with an excellent pianist and teacher, Anton Herke, a pupil of Adolf von Henselt. These lessons continued throughout Modeste's schooling .

After two years at the secondary school Modeste was transferred to an army preparatory school, and in August 1852 he entered the School of Guards Ensigns .

The Ensigns School

. . . Here Musorgsky was still surrounded by the same atmosphere of serfdom [as on the country estate, where his childhood had been spent]. Each ensign had his own valet-serf, who was flogged by the authorities if he should fail to humor his young master. There was also a serf-master relationship between the junior and senior cadets, a relationship of blind obedience to military superiors. The senior cadets called themselves "Messrs. cornets," and bore themselves haughtily in the presence of their junior comrades, whom they called "vandals." Each cornet had a vandal as well as a valet-serf for his services, and bullied him in various ways by the right of the strong; for example, the vandal was obliged to carry his cornet on his shoulders to the washroom. Messrs. cornets considered it humiliating to . . .

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