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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky


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Had he not, in effect, drunk himself to death, Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) would have been Russia's greatest composer. His music gets to the very soul of Russia and the Russian people, with distinction, opulence, lyricism, and a right-on sense of drama and pathos.
recommended recordings
Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov / Abbado, Kotcherga, Lipovsek, etc
Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor: Claudio Abbado
Performer: Wojciech Drabowicz, Alexander Fedin, et al.
Ensemble: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Radio Chorus, et al.
Sony Classics - #58977 / May 3, 1994

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Claudio Abbado uses Mussorgsky's text in a condition almost as complete as Mstislav Rostropovich's but avoiding some overlap from variant readings. He brings to his conducting the same vitality and scrupulous attention to small details that are familiar from his work in Italian opera. His cast is... Read more

Great Pianists of the 20th Century - Sviatoslav Richter I
Composer: Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, et al.
Performer: Sviatoslav Richter
Uni/Philips - #456946 / November 10, 1998

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Sviatoslav Richter's 1958 recital recording here of Pictures at an Exhibition is worth the price of admission alone: simply put, it's a classic that has all too often fallen out of print. The performance makes this double-CD volume in Philips's Great Pianists of the 20th Century series one of the most enthralling in the catalogue. The Russian's power throughout the Pictures is truly infectious. "The Market-Place at Limoges" tickles the listener with bustling energy, while "The Great Gate of...Read more


Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition / Szell, Cleveland
Composer: Modest Mussorgsky, Zoltán Kodály, et al.
Conductor: George Szell
Performer: Toni Koves-Steiner, David Perlman, et al.
Ensemble: Cleveland Orchestra
Sony Classics - #48162 / June 2, 1992

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How do you describe perfection? George Szell's legacy in Cleveland emphasized the great classical and Romantic symphonic repertoire, with relatively few forays into more modern music. But no orchestra ever played these 20th-century masterpieces with more glitter and precision, and the Prokofiev/Kodaly works, when first issued together on LP, immediately became the standard by which all other performances are measured. In fact they still are, and at budget price, not only do they cost less than...Read more


Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition / Maazel, Cleveland
Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor: Lorin Maazel
Ensemble: Cleveland Orchestra
Telarc - #80042 / January 1, 1987

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This was one of the recordings that put Telarc on the musical map, and first revealed the potential of digital recording technology to millions of music lovers and stereo buffs. It's still one of the very finest recordings of "Pictures" around, both as sound and performance. Lorin Maazel maintained the high standards of execution that George Szell inculcated during his quarter century in Cleveland, and for sheer hair-trigger precision, the playing is simply unbeatable. In addition, Telarc...Read more


Songs and Dances of Death / Hvorostovsky, Gergiev

Composer: Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, et al.
Conductor: Valery Gergiev
Performer: Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Ensemble: Kirov Theater Orchestra
Uni/Philips - #38872 / March 15, 1994

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Mussorgsky's four songs known collectively as Songs and Dances of Death make up 20 minutes of the most intense storytelling in 19th-century song. At first, Hvorostovsky's voice seems almost too beautiful, his sound almost too youthful to fill out these narratives, but his concentration and breath control are so sensational that we realize what he's up to. He's spinning us seductively into the spooky world of these songs, where Death converses in turn with the mother of a dying child, a...Read more


Mussorgsky: Night on Bare Mountain, etc / Abbado, Berlin PO

Composer: Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor: Claudio Abbado
Performer: Anatoly Kotcherga, Marianna Tarasova
Ensemble: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Radio Chorus, et al.
Sony Classics - #62034 / September 2, 1997

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In one word--spectacular! Abbado is in my mind the greatest conductor of Mussorgsky alive (as odd as the notion of an Italian conducting the most Russian of Russian music might initially seem), and this disc is no exception. Everything is simply flawless, and if you are looking for Mussorgsky pieces this disc is a must buy. As well you should look into Abbado's recording of the original version of "Night on Bald Mountain" on RCA--it's priceless.

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