Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Born Today March 21: Modest Mussorgsky (Not So Silent Edition)


Russian composer Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was born on this date in Karevo, Russian Empire.  The place of his birth is located about 400 KM/250 miles south of St. Petersburg.  His family claimed that they were descended from the first Ruthenian ruler Rurikbasically, a kind of royal Viking ancestry, who seems to have been some sort of Slavic viking established chieftain.  There were, at the time of his birth, a very wealthy, land-owning family with broad influence and acknowledged serious noble ancestry.  There are several theories about his surname (all of which are explored in the Wikipedia link below), with questions about how seriously the family took to the various spellings of the name.  They were certainly a very proud lot.  Modest's mother was a trained pianist, and she began to teach the instrument to him at the age of six.  Reportedly, by the age of nine he was an extremely accomplished player.  At the age of 10 years, he and his brother were taken to St. Petersburg to study at the very exclusive German language St. Peter's School.  There, he continued his piano studies; at the age of 12 published as self-penned compositional polka, which his father paid for.   Despite his obvious talent for composition at an early age, the family, because of their position in society, intended both of their sons to follow a military career.  He was sent off to a military school at the age of 13; reportedly a brutal environment that lead to difficulties, including, possibly, the beginnings of his serious struggle with drink; yet he was still able to indulge his passion for music there.  He did graduate and in 1856, when he was 17,  he formally entered the army and made the acquaintance of A. Borodin, who was 22 at the time.  They were both serving at a military hospital; Borodin had already become aware of the talent Mussorgsky possessed.  Ever the student of German, but equally proud of his ancient Slavic ancestry, he was a keen admirer of composers from both backgrounds.  He did, though suffer from the tendency to be overtly influenced, even "ruled" by teachers who were conductors/composers of his time.  He seemed also to suffer from the romanticizing of generational ideas.  Through his life, he was never truly a person who supported himself with his musical work, and never became a "true" career composer.  He, through almost all of his adult life, was a civil servant; a civil servant of high rank, but not a self supporting artist.  He apparently was a very heavy lifelong alcoholic and developed some type of seizure disorder.  He was also apparently given to serious bouts of depression as well.  Complications from his heavy drinking, and what may have been other physical problems that went undiagnosed, lead to his seriously premature death on the 28th of March 1881 at the age of 42, exactly one week after his birthday.  He died in a St. Petersburg hospital; the same at which his portrait had been painted only a week or so prior to his death.  He was buried in the Tikhvin Cemetery in St. Petersburg.  In regards to this cemetery, it is reported that when the Soviet government wished on construct a square in front of the famous cemetery, the area contained graves that they never actually moved.  It is rumored that they only moved the headstones and not the bodies.  Supposedly Mussorgsky's burial was amongst them.  If this is true, his actual grave site lies beneath a modern bus stop.  In regards to film, the first real credit of his music being used came in 1929 in the not so silent and partially lost Dark Red Roses.  In the year 2000, his "Pictures At An Exhibition" was used as part of the restored release of the 1913 epic The Last Days Of Pompeii.  Curiously, the same piece was used in the lost and found cult horror classic White Zombie (1932) starring Bela Lugosi.  The most recent use released of his music came in the music heavy comedy drama Mozart In The Jungle; with Murder, I Wrote, an Indian production, yet to be released.  

Modest Mussorgsky's eleaborate grave marker--most likley defret of a body in St. Petersburg.

For More:

Leave Virtual Flower @ Finda A Grave

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