About this work

The works of Mussorgsky's last years, the years from 1877 to 1881, are among the saddest music ever written. Not that most of it is itself sad in emotional expression; no, the music is sad because of what it reveals about Mussorgsky's genius and his personality. By the age of 38, Mussorgsky was a ruin: years of alcoholism and what was called epilepsy had deformed his personality and with it his genius as a composer. With isolated exceptions, the works of his final years are uninspired, flat, and banal with only the very occasional echoes of his former genius.

Meditation, a piano piece composed in 1880 and published in the magazine Nuvallist in 1888, is unfortunately just such a piece. Although Mussorgsky was said to be a brilliant pianist in his youth, and although he had written what is still considered the greatest solo piano piece ever written by a Russian in Pictures at an Exhibition, Meditation is conventional to the point of triteness. The dreamy melody is dreary. The harmonies are sentimental. The form is simple-minded. That such a work could have been composed by the same mind that created Boris Godunov, and that it could have been allowed by the personality that created the Sunless song cycle is profoundly depressing.