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

already grown powerfully in music. Balakirev wished to introduce me to the music of his Circle and, above all, to the symphony of the "absentee" (this was Rimsky-Korsakov, then a naval officer, just departed [October 20] on a lengthy cruise to North America). Musorgsky sat down with Balakirev at the piano ( Musorgsky at primo, Balakirev at secundo). The playing was not such as had been at our first two meetings. I was struck by the brilliance, the intelligence and energy of the performance as well as by the beauty of the piece. They played the finale of the symphony. It was here that Musorgsky found out that I also had some sort of inclination to compose music, and he began to ask me to show them something. I was terribly ashamed, and I categorically refused . . . 96--ALEXANDER BORODIN


29a. CESAR CUI to MILI BALAKIREV [Extract]

February 26, 1863

. . . Won't you be able to drop in on me for the evening (1) in order to release me from too heavy a dose of Modinka, who threatens us from dinnertime on and (2) in order to hear what I've sketched on Richard97 . . . ?


29b. CESAR CUI to NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV, the Clipper Almaz, I. R. N. [Extract]

April 22, 1863

. . . Modinka presented some sort of musical monstrosity to us-- supposedly a trio to his scherzo, a huge, awkward monstrosity. Here are some church chants of endless length and the usual Modinkian pedaling and so forth--all this is unclear, strange, awkward and by no means a trio . . .

____________________
96
In December 1862, Borodin was appointed assistant professor of organic chemistry at the Academy of Medicine.
97
Richard Wagner had just come to St. Petersburg to conduct five concerts for the Petersburg Philharmonic Society. Musical and financial details of these concerts, largely made up of excerpts from Wagner's operas, may be found in Vol. III of Ernest Newman The Life of Richard Wagner ( New York, Knopf, 1933-37). The Circle's attitude to this "personal appearance" is given by an acquaintance: "At Balakirev's I never heard any conversations about the founder of 'music of the future.' And when Wagner himself came to St. Petersburg in the winter of 1862-63, to conduct several concerts with great success, our narodniki-realists, while granting that he was a splendid conductor, would not bow to him as a composer, did not try to meet him, nor did they invite him to visit them . . . The future "heap-ists" [see p. 85], of course, attended his concerts, but as I remember, neither Balakirev nor VI. Stasov met him." ( P. Boborykin, "For Half a Century," Russkaya Starina, February 1913.)

-46-

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