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

By Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky; Jay Leyda et al. | Go to book overview

A Personal Note

IN THE spring of 1940 I wrote to my mother, then living in Reval, asking her how she and my father had first met Musorgsky. She replied:

Your father first met him at the home of the poet, Count Golenishchev-Kutuzov, with whom Musorgsky was very friendly. Before my marriage he visited me only once. It was after my debut at the Marinsky Opera, when I was living with my mother by the Yekaterinsky Canal. He arrived, introduced himself, and after a while asked me to sing some Dargomizhsky songs. He accompanied me in "Charm Me" and several others. As I was to sing these songs at a concert shortly afterwards, I asked him for suggestions and criticism, but evidently he approved, for he had nothing but praise for me. I thanked him and he left. I seem to remember that he was living in great seclusion at that time, and visited no one very often but Ludmila Ivanovna . . .

Ludmila Ivanovna Shestakova was a dear friend to both my parents. before their marriage, and they often met Musorgsky in the Shestakova apartment. My mother's operatic career as Olga Skalkovskaya was cut short two years after her debut by her marriage with Dr. Lev Bertensson, but this was by no means the end of her musical activity. Her. love for music and my father's admiration for it (he was the only. doctor to join the board of directors of the Imperial Russian Musical Society) made music the life-blood of the literary and theatrical salon that the Bertenssons maintained.

But it was the drawing-room of Shestakova that was the center of St. Petersburg's musical life, by virtue of its hostess's authoritative charm and her dead brother, Glinka. Here were the mild Rimsky- Korsakov, the even more gentle Borodin, Cui of the sharp tongue, Stasov of the loud voice, and Napravnik who spoke eternally about rhythm as if it were some sort of medicine.

Musorgsky was this group's first tragedy. Shestakova had called upon

-xvii-

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