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

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

thing very sympathetic about him, something unsuited to this vulgar milieu. The swiftly changing expression of his face, now severe and then suddenly laughing with complete frankness, the intonation and rhythm of his speech full of contrasting changes, the broad range of his voice, his abrupt movements, his provocative appearance which at the same time showed shyness and timidity--all this indicated an extremely nervous nature and a gentle character . . . NIKOLAI KOMPANEISKY

. . . in 1867, I met Turgenev once more, again at a concert, this time in the Hall of Nobility. And here we became acquainted. This was the 6th of March, a memorable date for me, and the concert was one given by the Free Music School under the direction of Balakirev . . . [In our conversation] Turgenev turned to the subject of the new Russian composers, whom he strongly disliked, and to whom he referred with habitual contempt. "You saw in Smoke what I think of them," he said, already considerably agitated. "But tell me, Ivan Sergeyevich," I asked, "do you know many of them, or have you had an opportunity to hear much of their work in Paris?""When I'm in Petersburg, I do my best to hear everything new that is being done here . . . It's terrible . . . You needn't look far for an example-- it is sufficient to listen to what they're giving us tonight. In the first part of [the program] they sang some sort 'magic chorus' by Mr. Dargomizhsky . . .""From Rogdana?""Oh, yes, from Rogdana or some such place . . . A magic chorus! Ha, ha, ha! Wonderful magic! And what horrible music! Emptiness itself, mediocrity itself. It doesn't pay to come to Russia for such a 'Russian school'! You can get this sort of thing everywhere--in Germany, in France, at any concert . . . and no one pays any attention to it . . . But here, now, it's a great creation, an original Russian school! Russian, original! And then there was this King Lear by Mr. Balakirev. Balakirev--and Shakespeare--what do they have in common? A colossus of poetry and a pigmy of music, not even a musician. And then . . . then there was this 'chorus of Sennacherib' by Mr. Musorgsky . . . What self- deceit, what blindness, what illiteracy, what an ignoring of Europe . . ."--VLADIMIR STASOV


44. To LUDMILA SHESTAKOVA

[Beginning of April, 1867]

OUR BENEFACTRESS THOU

LUDMILA IVANOVNA--BY MARRIAGE SHESTAKOVA

In these days of harsh frosts I feel greatly inflamed by a desire to coax thee: allow me to present myself at thine home on Monday, God's day, the day that follows Christ's bright resurrection.--Do not force thyself, mine own, to spread an honorable feast, with a choice brew, but permit me just to share with thee on that day some bread and salt washed down with a goblet of the grape, and to indulge my aching

-83-

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