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Musorgsky: His Life and Works (Master Musicians Series)

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9780198165873: Musorgsky: His Life and Works (Master Musicians Series)
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Modest Musorgsky was one of the towering figures of nineteenth-century Russian music. Now, in this new volume in the Master Musicians series, David Brown gives us the first life-and-works study of Musorgsky to appear in English for over a half century. Indeed, this is the largest such study of Musorgsky to have appeared outside Russia.
Brown shows how Musorgsky, though essentially an amateur with no systematic training in composition, emerged in his first opera, Boris Godunov, as a supreme musical dramatist. Indeed, in this opera, and in certain of his piano pieces in Pictures at an Exhibition, Musorgsky produced some of the most startlingly novel music of the whole nineteenth century. He was also one of the most original of all song composers, with a prodigious gift for uncovering the emotional content of a text. As Brown illuminates Musorgsky's work, he also paints a detailed portrait of the composer's life. He describes how, unlike the systematic and disciplined Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky was a fitful composer. When the inspiration was upon him, he could apply himself with superhuman intensity, as he did when composing the initial version of Boris Godunov. Sadly, Musorgsky deteriorated in his final years, suffering periods of inner turmoil, when his alcoholism would be out of control. Finally, unemployed and all but destitute, he died at age forty-two. His failure to complete his two remaining operas, Khovanshchina and Sorochintsy Fair, Brown concludes, is one of music's greatest tragedies.
Written by one of the leading authorities on nineteenth-century Russian composers, Musorgsky is the finest available biography of this giant of Russian music.

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About the Author:


David Brown, now retired, was Professor of Musicology at the University of Southampton. The editor of the New Grove Russian Masters series, he is the author of two major biographies of Russian composers, Mikhail Glinka and Tchaikovsky.

From Library Journal:

The latest addition to Oxford's "Master Musicians" series, this is actually an update of a 1946 volume on Mussorgsky from Oxford. Musicologist Brown (Mikhail Glinka; Tchaikovsky) clearly knows late 19th-century Russian music and society and accurately portrays his subject as an amateur with no conservatory training in composition who nonetheless became one of the most revered of the group of Russian nationalist composers known as "The Five." His early death at age 42, brought on by alcohol poisoning, was a tragedy of immeasurable proportions, as he left incomplete two operas, Khovanshchina and Sorochintsy Fair. The book is well organized: the author seamlessly weaves perceptive but not overly arcane musical analysis with rich biographical detail. Three chapters are devoted to a detailed discussion of Mussorgsky's operatic masterpiece, Boris Godunov, but several other important works, such as Night on Bald Mountain (here referred to by its British title, St. John's Night on Bare Mountain) and Songs and Dances of Death, are given less than their due. The bibliography, which contains more than a dozen Russian-language sources, is reasonably thorough and up-to-date, and it includes a good deal of the writing on Mussorgsky by the brilliant and controversial American musicologist Richard Taruskin. Overall, this is an indispensable addition to the scanty material in English on this great Russian composer. Highly recommended for all collections.
Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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