Modest Mussorgsky: Songs and Dances of Death – arranged by Peter Breiner (PB053)
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Instrumentation: 2+1, 2+1, 2+1, 2+1, 4, 3, 4, 1 - timp - perc - hp - pf - cel - str
Mussorgsky wrote songs throughout his life, the first at the age of nineteen and the last in 1879. Pesni i piyaski smerti (Songs and Dances of Death) date from 1875, with the fourth song written in 1877. Based on a suggestion from Stasov and with texts by Arseny Golenischchev-Kutuzov, the songs reflect encounters with death. In the first, Kolïbel’naya (Lullaby), dedicated to the veteran singer Anna Vorobyeva-Petrova, Death lulls to final sleep a child, dying in his mother’s arms, and in the second, Serenada, dedicated to Glinka’s sister, Death serenades a dying girl, claiming her as his own. In Trepak, dedicated to the bass Osip Petrov, Death dances with a drunken peasant, lured to die in the ice and snow. The fourth song, Polkovodets (The Field Marshal), dedicated to Kutuzov, presents a scene of battle, after which Death surveys the field, having conquered all. Peter Breiner’s orchestral arrangement of the songs is scored for two flutes with piccolo, two oboes with cor anglais, two clarinets and a bass clarinet, two bassoons and a contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, four trombones, tuba, timpani, snare drum, cymbals, bass drum, triangle, tubular bells, glockenspiel, xylophone, harp, celesta, piano and a string section of fifty players.