“Mussorgsky, in his vocal efforts, appears wilfully eccentric. His style impresses the Western ear as barbarously ugly.” – Edward Dannreuther
The Oxford History of Music (Oxford: Clarendon, 1905) vol. 6, p. 321
“I have no use whatever for Mussorgsky. All in him is flabby and dull. He is, I think, a perfect idiot. Were he left to his own devices and no longer under your strict supervision, he would soon run to seed as all the others have done. There is nothing in him.” – Vladimir Stasov
In an 1863 letter to Mussorgsky’s teacher Mily Balakirev.
“Yes, Mussorgsky is little short of an idiot.” – Mily Balakirev
Reply to the above.
“Mussorgsky, you might very rightly say, was a hopeless case. In talent he is perhaps superior to all the other members of The BIg Five [a group of Russian composers who regularly met in St. Petersburg from 1856-70] but his nature is narrow-minded, devoid of any urge towards self-perfection, blindly believing in the ridiculous theories of his circle and in his own genius. In addition, he has a certain base side to his nature which likes coarseness, uncouthness, roughness… He flaunts… his illiteracy, takes pride in his ignorance, mucks along anyhow, blindly believing in the infallibility of his genius. Yet he has flashes of talent which are, moreover, not devoid of originality.” – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
In a letter to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck.
“They were very defective, teeming with clumsy, disconnected harmonies, shocking part-writing, amazingly illogical modulations or intolerably long stretches without ever a modulation, and bad scoring… what is needed is an edition for practical and artistic purposes, suitable for performances and for those who wish to admire Mussorgsky’s genius, not to study his idiosyncrasies and sins against art.” – Rimsky-Korsakov
On Mussorgsky’s scores, which he would later edit.