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Modest Mussorgsky:
About Modest Mussorgsky

When he was a kid growing up, Modest Mussorgsky learned Russian fairy tales and folk stories from the family nurse. Those fairy tales put in an appearance in the music he wrote later on. Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition in memory of an artist friend of his who died suddenly.

Music heard in this episode:
Mussorgsky: Gopak
Mussorgsky: Scherzo
Mussorgsky: Dance of the Persian Slaves
Mussorgsky: A Night on Bald Mountain
Mussorgsky: The Flea
Mussorgsky: Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov
Mussorgsky: Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition

Other shows about Modest Mussorgsky:
The Mighty Handful
Pictures at an Exhibition
Halloween Music

Download this month's activity sheet

About Modest Mussorgsky
3/21/1839 - 3/28/1881
Born in Russia

Modest Mussorgsky was born in the Russian village of Karevo. His mother gave him his first piano lessons, and it was clear early on that Mussorgsky was a very good pianist.

Modest went to military boarding school, and when he graduated, he joined the army as an officer. Then, Mussorgsky started studying music with Russian composer Mily Balakirev, and left the army to become a composer. He was part of a group of five Russian composers known as "The Five," or the "Mighty Handful."

But Mussorgsky had a hard time making a living as a composer, especially after his family lost all its money. So he got a government job, and continued to spend all his spare time composing.

In addition to his instrumental music, Mussorgsky wrote songs, and several operas. His operatic masterpiece is "Boris Godunov," about a Russian Tsar who lived in the 1500's.

See other composers born in Russia


This Week's Quiz:

1. Who was Modest Mussorgsky’s first piano teacher?

His uncle

His father

His mother

His art teacher

The local church organist

2.When Mussorgsky’s family lost their land and money, where did he find a job?

The Conservatory of Music

A farm

A grocery store

The government

A law firm

3. Who is the subject of Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov?

A Baker

A Russian Tsar

A Clown

A Prince

A Monster


Modest Mussorgsky
"Gnome" from Pictures at an Exhibition

Composed in 1874
Performed by Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
Daviel Nazareth, conductor

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