March 21, 1839: Modest Petrovich Musorgsky is born in Karevo, Pskov Province, Toropets District, Russian Empire, south of St. Petersburg, the fourth and youngest child of Pyotr Alyekseyevich Musorgsky, a well-to-do landowner and Yulia Ivanovna Chirikova, daughter of a middle-class landowner.
September 13, 1852: Modest Musorgsky (13) is enrolled in the Company of the Guards Sub-Ensigns, otherwise known as the Cadet School.
March 11, 1855: The body of Tsar Nikolay I is taken from the Winter Palace to the Cathedral of the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul. Accompanying it are members of the Cadet School, including Modest Musorgsky (15).
April 6, 1856: After graduating from the Academy of Physicians, Alyeksandr Borodin (22) is appointed “medical practitioner” at the Second Military Hospital, St. Petersburg. In this capacity he will meet a young duty officer assigned to the hospital from the Preobrazhensky Regiment: Modest Musorgsky (17).
October 20, 1856: Modest Musorgsky (17) is enrolled as an officer in the regiment of the Preobrazhensky Guards.
June 17, 1858: Deciding to devote himself entirely to music, Modest Musorgsky (19) resigns his commission in the Preobrazhensky Regiment of Guards.
March 3, 1861: By command of Alyeksandr II, Tsar of all the Russias, every one of the 25 million serfs in his domains is forthwith emancipated. The Musorgsky family is financially devastated and Modest Musorgsky (21) has to think about money for the first time.
April 18, 1861: The temple scene from a projected opera by Modest Musorgsky (22) to Ozerov’s (after Sophocles) play Oedipus in Athens is performed for the first time, at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg.
December 13, 1863: Modest Musorgsky (24) is appointed collegiate secretary at the chief engineering department of the Russian Ministry of Communications.
February 1, 1864: Modest Musorgsky (24) is made the head clerk of the barracks section at the Department of Engineering, Russian Ministry of Communications.
December 13, 1866: Modest Musorgsky (27) is promoted to the rank of Titular Councilor at the Russian Ministry of Communication.
May 10, 1867: Modest Musorgsky (28) is dismissed from his position with the Russian Ministry of Communications.
July 5, 1867: Modest Musorgsky (28) completes St. John’s Night on Bald Mountain on St. John’s Eve at Minkino Farm in the Luga District.
October 16, 1868: Modest Musorgsky (29), Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (24), Cesar Cui (33), and Sergey Dargomizhsky (55) attend the first Russian performance of Lohengrin by Richard Wagner (55) at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. Rimsky-Korsakov recalls, “In our opinion, Lohengrin was contemptable.” They have no end of abuse for the work.
November 27, 1868: The first complete performance of Sergey Dargomizhsky’s (55) opera The Stone Guest takes place in the composer’s home in St. Petersburg. Modest Musorgsky (29) plays the parts of Leporello and Don Carlos.
January 2, 1869: Modest Musorgsky (29) is appointed head clerk in the Forestry Department of the Russian Ministry of State Property.
December 13, 1869: Modest Musorgsky (30) is promoted to the rank of Collegiate Assessor in the Forestry Department of the Russian Ministry of State Property.
July 22, 1870: At the Stasov’s dacha near Pargolovo, Modest Musorgsky (31) meets the painter Victor Hartmann for the first time.
February 22, 1871: A board of musicians, assembled by the Imperial Theatre Directorate, rejects Modest Musorgsky’s (31) opera Boris Godunov for performance, complaining that it does not have an important female role.
February 17, 1872: The finale to Act I of Boris Godunov, an opera by Modest Musorgsky (32) to his own words after Pushkin and Karamazin, is performed for the first time, by the Russian Musical Society, St. Petersburg. The audience is encouraging enough for him to continue work. See 8 February 1874.
March 19, 1872: A board of Russian censors recommends the performance of Modest Musorgsky’s (32) opera Boris Godunov, the only objection being an 1837 edict prohibiting the operatic representation of a Tsar. See 17 April 1872.
April 12, 1872: The Chief of the Central Administration for Publishing Matters of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs issues a report in the name of the Tsar which includes authorization for the production of the opera Boris Godunov by Modest Musorgsky (33). It will be signed by Tsar Alyeksandr in five days.
April 15, 1872: Mily Balakirev (35) conducts the fourth concert of the 1871-72 Free School of Music subscription series. It is poorly attended and the fifth concert will be cancelled for lack of funds. Balakirev will not conduct again for ten years. The Polonaise from Modest Musorgsky’s (33) unperformed opera Boris Godunov is premiered. See 18 July 1872.
June 22, 1872: The St. Petersburg publisher Vasily Bessel presents Modest Musorgsky (33) with a copy of the first edition of his song cycle The Nursery.
February 17, 1873: Three scenes from Modest Musorgsky’s (33) opera Boris Godunov are performed for the first time, at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. The performers and audience are very enthusiastic.
April 6, 1873: St. Petersburg publisher Vasily Bessel announces the opening of subscriptions to the piano-vocal score of Modest Musorgsky’s (34) Boris Godunov.
August 4, 1873: Victor Hartmann, painter-friend of Modest Musorgsky (34) dies in Kireyev, near Moscow.
February 8, 1874: The second version of Boris Godunov, an opera by Modest Musorgsky (34) to his own words after Pushkin and Karamazin, is performed for the first time, at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. The composer feels a triumph but the audience is a bit bewildered. Many people feel the performances rescue the music. See 6 February 1928.
March 13, 1875: Muzydalnyi listok, St. Petersburg, advertises as “just published” the song cycle Sunless by Modest Musorgsky (35).
March 17, 1875: Modest Musorgsky (35) is made senior head clerk in the Russian Department of Forests.
October 31, 1875: Modest Musorgsky (36) writes to Vladimir Stasov, “the mighty kuchka has degenerated into soulless traitors.”
June 4, 1878: Modest Musorgsky (39) is promoted to Collegiate Councillor in the Russian Forestry Department.
August 30, 1878: Vladimir Stasov writes to Mily Balakirev (42) from Paris, “In front of our very eyes, Musorgsky (39), one of our most talented comrades and brothers, is sinking to the bottom, silently plunging deeper and deeper into the water, like a ship in which the cursed worms have gnawed a hole through the bottom. He is surrounded by disgusting drunks and scoundrels of the crudest and lowest sort...they are dragging him down and destroying him because of his weak and impressionable nature...The point is to separate and remove him from that vile drunken crowd and from all the inactivity.”
September 9, 1879: Modest Musorgsky (40) and contralto Daya Leonava give a concert in Odessa. It is the hit of the season.
January 13, 1880: Modest Musorgsky (40) is forced to leave government service, but friends guarantee him a monthly stipend provided he finish Khovanshchina.
January 15, 1880: Vladimir Stasov writes to Mily Balakirev (43) in St. Petersburg, “[Musorgsky (40) is] falling apart; since 1 January (OS) he’s been without a job and without any means of support!!! Now he’ll start drinking even harder! Won’t you do something for him, and quickly, if possible? Time won’t wait.”
April 14, 1880: Modest Musorgsky (40) dates and dedicates the final scene to Khovanshchina in St. Petersburg.
April 20, 1880: New works from the Kuchka are performed for the first time, in Kononov Hall, St. Petersburg: In Central Asia, a symphonic poem by Alyeksandr Borodin (46) composed for the silver jubilee of Tsar Alyeksandr II, conducted by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (36), the closing scene from Modest Musorgsky’s (41) opera Khovanshchina, and Musorgsky’s Mephistopheles’ Song of the Flea for solo voice and piano to words of Goethe (tr. Strugovshchikov).
October 21, 1880: Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (36) writes this day, “Owing to inadequate technique, Balakirev (43) writes...little, Borodin (47) with difficulty, Cui (45) in a slipshod way, Musorgsky (41) sloppily and often absurdly...and all this constitutes the regrettable specialty of the Russian school.” “I have absolutely no desire to mess with [the Free Music School] anymore. And even those whose works it would be a pleasure to perform, for example, Borodin, Musorgsky and Balakirev, aren’t writing much, and if they do write, they don’t orchestrate; you have to run after everyone like a nurse after a child.”
October 30, 1880: The Capture of Kars, a march by Modest Musorgsky (41), is performed for the first time, by the Russian Musical Society, St. Petersburg.
November 16, 1880: Modest Musorgsky (41) plays his opera Khovanshchina to a private musical gathering in St. Petersburg which includes the Kuchka (except Rimsky-Korsakov(36)). Many of the listeners place themselves in an advisory capacity, suggesting numerous cuts and rearrangements, Cesar Cui (45) especially.
February 21, 1881: Modest Musorgsky (41) makes his last public appearances at morning and evening concerts in St. Petersburg.
February 23, 1881: Modest Musorgsky (41) suffers a seizure at the home of contralto Darya Leonova in St. Petersburg but recovers and spends the night there, sleeping in a chair.
February 24, 1881: Modest Musorgsky (41) suffers three fits of alcoholic epilepsy at the house of contralto Darya Leonova, St. Petersburg.
March 26, 1881: In constant distress, Modest Musorgsky (41) draws up his will in a St. Petersburg hospital.
March 28, 1881: 05:00 Modest Petrovich Musorgsky dies in Nikolayevsky Military Hospital, St. Petersburg, Russian Empire of the cumulative effects of alcoholism, aged 42 years and seven days.
March 30, 1881: The earthly remains of Modest Musorgsky are laid to rest in the Nevsky Cemetery, St. Petersburg. Attending are the other members of the Kuchka, Alyeksandr Borodin (47), Cesar Cui (46), Mily Balakirev (44), and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (37), along with many musicians and music students.
February 27, 1887: Alyeksandr Porfiryevich Borodin attends a costume party with his two adopted daughters in the Sushchinsky lecture room of the Academy of Science, St. Petersburg, Russia. While conversing innocently he begins to slur his words and suddenly collapses to the floor. Every doctor and professor in the Academy try for an hour to revive him but to no avail. An autopsy will show a burst artery of the heart. The funeral will be attended by a large crowd and Borodin’s mortal remains will be laid to rest in the cemetery of the Alyeksandr Nevsky Monastery, St. Petersburg next to those of Modest Musorgsky (†5) and near those of Alyeksandr Dargomizhsky (†18). At the time of his death, Borodin is aged 53 years, three months, and 15 days.
November 9, 1893: The mortal remains of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky are carried in procession from the apartment of his brother Modest to the Mariinsky Theatre where a requiem is sung. At noon they reach the Kazan Cathedral. This is the main requiem of the day, on the order of Tsar Alyeksandr III, the first time that a civilian has been given this honor. At 14:00 they proceed down Nevsky Prospect to the cemetery of the Alexander Nevsky monastery, St. Petersburg. After another requiem and several orations and poems, the body is laid to rest not far from those of Modest Musorgsky (†12), Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (†36), and Alyeksandr Borodin (†6).
April 1, 1909: Modest Musorgsky’s (†28) incomplete comic opera The Marriage, to words of Gogol, is performed for the first time, at the Suvorin Theatre School, St. Petersburg. See 6 October 1868.
March 29, 1911: A prelude and parts of Acts I and II of Sorochintsy Fair, an opera by Modest Musorgsky (†30), orchestrated by Lyadov and edited by Karatigin, are performed for the first time, privately, in St. Petersburg. See 30 December 1911.
December 30, 1911: A prelude and parts of Acts I and II of Sorochintsy Fair, an opera by Modest Musorgsky (†30), orchestrated by Lyadov and edited by Karatigin, are staged for the first time, in the Comedia Theatre, St. Petersburg. See 29 March 1911.
October 21, 1913: Modest Musorgsky’s (†32) comic opera Sorochintsy Fair, after Gogol, is performed for the first time, at the Moscow Free Theatre. Left unfinished at the composer’s death, the work was completed and orchestrated by Lyadov, Karatigin and others.
March 27, 1923: An arrangement of Modest Musorgsky’s opera Sorochintsy Fair by Nikolay Nikolayevich Tcherepnin is performed for the first time, at the Monte Carlo Opéra on the eve of the 42nd anniversary of his death.
February 16, 1928: The first version of Modest Musorgsky’s (†46) opera Boris Godunov, to his own words after Pushkin and Karamazin, is performed for the first time, in Leningrad.
January 12, 1932: An arrangement of Modest Musorgsky’s (†50) opera Sorochintsy Fair, completed and orchestrated by Vissarion Yakovlevich Shebalin, is performed for the first time, in Moscow.
November 10, 1980: Salammbo, an opera by Modest Musorgsky (†99) to words after Flaubert, is performed for the first time, in a version orchestrated by Peskó, over the airwaves of RAI originating in Milan.