William Sterling

Modest Mussorgsky

The Mighty Handful

The lives and music of Balakirev, Cui, Borodin, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov examining how they came together and how their careers overlapped. In 1867 the critic Stasov wrote a review of the Pan-Slav concert organised by Mily Balakirev: “God grant that our Slavonic guests may never forget today’s concert; God grant that they may ever preserve the memory of how much poetry, feeling, talent and skill we have in our small but already might handful of Russian musicians” and thus the term was coined.

I ran this course at Crayford Manor (Bexley College) October-December 1998.

Mussorgsky – Civil Servant and Genius

When Mussorgsky died of alcoholic poisoning in 1881 just a week after his 42nd birthday he had finished just one of the twelve operas he had started plus a few songs, piano pieces and short orchestral works. That his music is known at all today is largely due to the efforts of his friend Rimsky-Korsakov whose versions of Night on a Bare Mountain and Boris Godunov along with Ravel’s version of Pictures at an Exhibition are among his best loved works.

This was a talk for the DfE Music Society inSeptember 2002 but I used it as the basis of a one day course at the City Lit in February 2009 where I examined Boris Godunov and Pictures at an Exhibition in some detail with video excerpts of the former and reproductions of nine of the pictures for the latter.

Mussorgsky Chronology

Below are the spreadsheets I created for these courses.

The Five Lives and Works

Mussorgsky Life and Works