"It is [a] fully illuminated story that Richard Taruskin, in the path-breaking essays collected here, unfolds around Modest Musorgsky, Russia's greatest national composer.... [Taruskin's] tour de force comes with a frontal attack on all the Soviet-bred truisms that for a century have refashioned Musorgsky from what the evidence suggests he was--an aristocrat with an early clinical interest in true-to-life musical portraiture and a later penchant for drinking partners who were both folklore buffs and political reactionaries democrat."--From the foreword
Incorporating both new and now-classic essays, this book for the first time sets the vocal works of Modest Musorgsky in a fully detailed cultural, political, and historical context. From this perspective Richard Taruskin revises fundamentally the composer's historical and artistic image, in particular debunking the century-old dogmas of Vladimir Stasov, Musorgsky's first biographer. Here the author offers the most complete explanation of the revision of the opera Boris Godunov, compares it to contemporaneous operas by Chaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, advances a revisionary characterization of Khovanshchina as an aristocratic tragedy informed by a pessimistic view of history, discusses Musorgsky's use of folklore, and, focusing on Sorochintsi Fair, brings to a climax his refutation of Musorgsky as a protorevolutionary populist. The epilogue is a survey of revisionary productions of Musorgsky's works at home during the Gorbachev era.
"It takes a critic of Mr. Taruskin's wide sympathies and musical acumen to steer through such rocky artistic and philosophical straits. It is unlikely that this year will see the publication of a more engrossing or more valuable book about music."--Donald Henahan, The New York Times Book Review
"The merit of Taruskin's essays lies in his clear, highly readable style, which constantly keeps the reader's interest. . . . A major achievement."--Opera News
"Richard Taruskin's . . . book reaffirms his position as the pre-eminent American historian of Russian music. He is the scholar who pursues the 'real Musorgsky' with beguiling zest, deep erudition, abiding philology, and thoroughly appropriate irreverence."--Thomas P. Hodge, The New Republic
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Richard Taruskin:
Hardcover published in 1993