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This is not only the first life-and-works on Musorgsky in English for over half a century but also the largest such study of the composer ever to have appeared outside Russia. Mussorgsky was one of the towering figures of nineteenth century Russian music - but also one of the most tragic. Largely an amateur with no systematic training in composition, he nevertheless emerged in his first opera, Boris Godunov, as a supreme musical dramatist, presenting here (and in certain of his piano pieces in Pictures at an Exhibition) some of the most startlingly original of all song composers, with a prodigious gift for uncovering the emotional content of a text. His failure to complete his two remaining operas, Khovanshchina and Sorochintsy Fair, before his premature death from alcohol poisoning is one of music's greatest tragedies.
The qualities of clarity and thoroughness familiar to readers of Professor Brown's earlier work are also in evidence here ... his style is straightforward and elegant without pretentiousness, apparently aimed at music lovers as much as those with a scholarly interest. (SEER)
... excellent monograph ... David Brown has done an excellent job in treating Musorgsky in such a lively and yet learned manner ... His magisterial study deserves to be purchased by many music lovers who will find the narrative fluent and the musical analysis approachable. It should also attract musicians and musical scholars who will also discover some new ideas, approaches and materials in its pages. (SEER)
... a no-holds barred biography ... Brown traces his entire output in a rich historical and social context. He ... gives us a new vision of the composer. (New York Times)
... the general reader and specialist alike will value the breadth, clear exposition and enthusiasm in Brown's discussion. (Geoffrey Norris, BBC Music Magazine)