Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition. Part 10 “The Hut on Hen’s Legs (Baba Yaga)”

From the series AG “The Return of Music”. Baba Yaga. The theme of the “Russian evil” in the Mussorgsky’s music.

This is a remarkable work, entwined into the epic canvas (I call it nothing but this anymore, since it really is an epic canvas) (“The Pictures at the Exhibition by Mussorgsky – editor’s note), where the unblemished Slavic nature of the great Russian man is coming to life.

This is the second piece dedicated to the evil spirit. It is interesting to see and compare it to the first piece, The Gnome. By now we know that The Gnome is nothing but a transformed historical development of the myth about gnomes which has refracted in the Russian consciousness into the evil spirits.

If we go back and remember how The Gnome sounded when Viy appeared (AG is playing: 1:19-1:25)… I’d like to say here that the musical intonations of composer’s whole life, his world outlook are present in him at all times. This is very important to know. I was fortunate to have known some really great composers in my lifetime, and I know a little bit, from the outside point of view (because I was too young to really understand anything and to appreciate), but from my personal experiences and conversations I know how certain musical intonations live in a person, and the person lives with them his whole life.

When they appear, the composers can’t really say. That is, whether they were born with these intonations or they acquired them, these are the questions which scientists are the ones to answer, probably not so soon because this is not something of first importance and has nothing to do with the health issues which occupy medical scientists’ minds.

Nevertheless, it’s absolutely obvious to me, and you can believe my empirical experience, that the composer is practically born with music that later ripens within him. The same way our body ripens, when we go through our childhood, puberty, teenage years, then youth, then we mature, accumulating and comprehending our life experience. And it is then when the real creation of art begins… But certain motifs which are associated with negativity, bad things, or positive, kind, good things, they live in shape of melody and sometimes in shape of just musical intervals. And so, it’s easy to trace this in the development of The Gnome.

What is the Viy appearance? (3:24-3:36). It’s the theme of evil which Modest Petrovich felt inside as long as he could remember himself. This is easy to trace from the fragments of his early and, unfortunately, unfinished work, opera The Fair at Sorochyntsy; very famous overture, (or symphonic poem, or symphonic piece), you can just call it a fragment, Night on Bald Mountain, where all the evil creatures are flocking together.

So how do the evil spirits appear? First, they are flying, the violins are playing there (4:244:33), now moving away, now coming closer, depending on which, there will be crescendo, diminuendo, the flight… The flight of an evil spirit (4:38-4:40); the good spirit doesn’t fly on chromatic harmonies.

And so, it is connected with our perception of this world. I am trying not to be too loquacious here because all of this is so interesting, but we will devote a separate record cycle to it: how the associations come to life, why they do, and how all this is connected with our bodies, our physiology, our vision, touch, taste, hearing, with our whole existence on our planet. All has its own logical explanation and its own rationale; it is an exceedingly interesting process.

So, why do the chromatic passages cause the feeling of discomfort, connection to the evil spirits etc. etc.? Night On Bald Mountain (5:40-5:54), it starts with pianissimo: the witches are flying on their brooms; and then all the evil spirits are appearing in no other way or motif but by the same notes and musical intervals the transformed Viy appears later (6:11-6:21).

This is a very characteristic musical sketch that gives us an image of the evil (6:34-6:40). Namely, by using glissando from one tone to another, because here again we have, speaking of associations, “crawling” association with the reptile. And what is a reptile? Not a reptile in a sense of biblical description, but later on, the association of a reptile with something that has neither arms nor legs, crawls on its belly, and therefore we associate it with “crawling” chromatic harmonies therefore causing our dislike. It has an easy and simple explanation, having something to do with our physiology, dislike for something that has neither arms nor legs and is significantly different from us. And we associate it with something that crawls on its belly, the next association being: grovel. In short, who am I to explain it to you, my dear audience, my dear spectators, since you know it yourself very well and can explore it for yourselves as it such a fun research, to trace our musical and physiological associations.

In the appearance of the major evil spirits in the Night on Bald Mountain, Mussorgsky combined those very same “gnome” (that came later on) musical intervals and notes into exactly the same one. (8:26-8:28). That is to say, this is one of the “evil” themes that lived in his soul from the moment he was born. And here he’s given it to us (8:37-8:45). We have it in The Gnome, only in a different essence (8:47-8:51): if there (in the Night on Bald Mountain – editor’s note) all the witches and all kinds of evil spirits were flocking together, then in The Gnome Mussorgsky presents us with the evil in its distilled form, i.e. by using the same tones, not mixing them (9:05-9:08), because he wanted to depict its posture to us. And naturally, he got this association with Viy, because: posture, gnome, dwarf, posture, the other world, Gogol, the Russian conscience… We just don’t have any other figure (9:23-9:26) with which we can associate this heavy metallic multi-thousand-ton posture. In all of our literature, in all of our epos, in all our Russian culture, only Viy is moving like this, no one else. That’s why, time and time again, I’m perfectly confident that it is the appearance of Viy that we see in the central part of The Gnome.

So, forgive me for getting distracted but I have to interrupt myself to talk about these seemingly distant subjects, because we have to understand the way of thought, of mind, and the process of the composition in the sense of how it all comes to life. Since for some people it is a perfect mystery, how is that? where does it all come from? is it done consciously or unconsciously? Where do all these themes, motifs, associations come from? This is how: we are born with them! I am absolutely confident about that. Apparently, these motifs are inherited genetically,

because there is no way we can get them from outside, to “digest” them, as they say when we deeply absorb something, and to transform them.

Usually, the material that a composer gets from the outside is easy to spot. It usually is connected with his perception of nature, here we can remind ourselves of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, descriptive, picturesque things, and we can see a grown person who has already seen musical images, landscapes through the prism of his inner vision… But the basic themes, like the good and evil, the harmony, the good spirit, the good feeling, the light – all this is already within us. And, in fact, any person who gets to compose, will take the basics (of the profession – editor’s note), he will take one or another of his perceptions “out of his person”, get it “crystallized”, filtered, and he will write the music. And everyone will do it differently, and everyone will be pretty persuasive, because it has to do with our physics, our anatomy, our structure, with, using Gogol’s words, all our “composition”; and I love using this word that Gogol used.

But if in The Gnome the evil is connected with the fairy tale, mythological characters (this, of course because the picture was about the Gnome), that is why it evoked the mythology. But the Yaga is a totally different depiction of evil. Yaga evoked completely different association in Mussorgsky’s soul that has nothing to do with the myths, but with his inner deep physiological perception and understanding of the evil.

In our time of the Internet, links and various possibilities to obtain the information, you can easily trace the etymology of Yaga within half an hour, and get the comprehensive information. But the main and defining feature of Yaga’s image is, nevertheless, the ancient Slavic roots as an epitome of the evil and death. She is the goddess of death, according to one of the multiple versions which I am inclined to, because all peoples have these anthropomorphic gods and for some reason, as a rule, of female species; like Aztecs, Indians, and the Slavs; such a “Baba” that symbolizes death and the distraction of life, with different national characteristics.

In the very deep roots of Russian conscience Yaga is something connected with the deep cynicism. If you remember, she fries little children, devours little children. All this is very frightening. If we can abstract ourselves from the defensive reactions that were supplied to us by the Soviet rule, cutting us off from the roots of our rich culture, because you all know perfectly well that the main goal of the communists were to create a new person, that meant cutting him off from all cultural roots. We were cut off the cultural roots in every way, in every way possible, and they continue to do it. Sometimes consciously, nowadays not so much consciously as unconsciously, it happens to the unfortunate Russian people by inertia. Our conscience is constantly getting cut, and cut, and cut, like a cob of a cabbage before it is put in soup, or borscht, wherever it’s put into, I dunno, maybe in schav… Anyway, our cultural perception, our deep-root understanding of belonging to our history, our national historical roots is cut off to the point where we turn into such naked emasculated cobs. And so, at this time, the goal of every cultural Russian person is to restore his identity, try to take roots, which is very, very difficult to do, of course, try to get everything back, using the information… This, to tell you the truth, is a work of a lifetime, to become a person again, because all of us, by the design of the Soviet incubator, seized to be a person. Actually, this is the way it is.

And so, what is our Baba Yaga? Baba Yaga is what since the 30s the Soviet rule was propagandizing utilizing the quality work of good actors, i.e. some silly stupid thing, neither

comical nor non-comical. Four generations had grown up since on these new images, 60 years we are being tucked into bed by “Good Night Little Ones” where our root-deep knowledge of folklore has transformed into some unintelligible kitsch, cheap, stupid, and dull, that nobody cares about. This is what our consciousness is.

But Mussorgsky didn’t have this! Yaga could only evoke in Mussorgsky the real associations, which is what this frightful goddess of death, goddess of cynicism, goddess of all that hits you below the belt was supposed to evoke. What brought it to life, what triggered it was quite innocent picture by Gartman with… a cuckoo clock.

Now you can see how naive it is to assume that Gartman brought out something in Mussorgsky by the images in his sketches. Of course not! This is exceedingly naïve and silly! But unfortunately, because of this thoughtless attitude, because our roots are cut off, because we are people without roots, because we are cobs cut down to the core in the sense of culture, we let all of our musical heritage to get derailed, all our culture, all our deep feelings. We are carriers of such a homeless culture.

This is not just sad, this is a tragedy! Our entire journey into the Pictures was a journey of a person not yet damaged in his mind and his heart; plus, not yet damaged by superficial Western influences which, in Russian case, were borrowed instead of absorbed. Let’s see, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff appropriated the Western techniques pretty successfully (in Rachmaninoff’s case, it’s mostly the piano technique). Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff are definitely related, like father and son, and their composing technique is very similar, as well as the way they think. But they can’t even be called Russian composers! No, they are fine Russian people, fine Russian artists who grew up exclusively on the fundamental Western culture taking it through the prism of their Russian consciousness at the time they lived. Tchaikovsky is kind of in the 18th century with the likeness of a master, of a feudal lord. In Rachmaninoff we see a master gentleman who has already stepped into the 20th century, the likes of a passenger from Titanic. But they are not real Russians. They are Russians mutated on European values, European foundation, European technique, technology, which has become their toolkit and mindset. That is, they were foreigners who loved all which is Russian. I think they would be much surprised to hear such a description from me, but it is so regardless, we can trace it now in historical retrospective. Not without reason Rachmaninoff became such an integrated American. Tchaikovsky was leaning to the Germans and basically is a Russian variant of Schumann whom he loved dearly. But Mussorgsky, he is from there, from that time where Baba Yaga was what she really was: the epitome of death and vileness.

And it’s not surprising that there is a wall of partition in our minds between Tchaikovsky, who thought of Mussorgsky as of just a freak, using the modern word, Rachmaninoff who doesn’t even want to talk about him (Mussorgsky – editor’s note), For them, he’s an alien from another planet. They are so much European, in their suits, with their cigars, while Modest Petrovich is living on another planet that neither Tchaikovsky nor Rachmaninoff don’t know about and don’t want to know!

That is such a watershed moment, and like I said before, we have only three figures in Russian music history: Mussorgsky who gave us the beginning; Shostakovich who developed it in our time; and Stravinsky, who seemed to be looking at the Russian root-deep culture that goes back to the Slavic tribes, down from cosmic space, who gave us The Rite of Spring, The Firebird,

psalm-like, absolutely breathtaking images with the Slavic connection. How they did it in the technical sense of view, that’s another story. It’s a mystery of course. The harmonies are quite simple, sometimes there are only one or two sounds, and all of a sudden the whole cosmos is opening before us…

We are also going to touch on this issue because we have such a composer as Liszt who is very loquacious! It’s not enough that he is constantly talking away in his music, but he is also repeating himself one, two, three, four, five, ten times! He is like a publicist, he wants us to digest his every musical thought, and he hammers away at it. It’s totally unbearable at times…

And anyway, he doesn’t reach the goal he so very much desires exactly because of his talkativeness. He doesn’t reach the heights where with one stroke, one jewel – we can see the whole cosmos in this one gem, like in a kaleidoscope that is turned by a magic hand, and we see a different world, a different galaxy, everything is different…

This is, surely, a mystery. Naturally, you can decode all this using myriads of chain associations, and giving scientific explanations. But you will spend your whole life on this. But of course it’s a very interesting never-ending world for music critics and researchers of the human psychology and musical relations.

But let’s go back to Baba Yaga. So, vileness, beastliness, not the mythological but real. Everything Modest Petrovich saw and heard in his lifetime as Russian character goes (he didn’t know any other, he didn’t go anywhere outside his very limited geographic location where he existed), all this was in his blood. And his mind was uncommonly singular.

Again, as we compare minds, there is a dramatic difference between the minds of Mussorgsky, Shostakovich and Stravinsky – these are gigantic minds; and on the other hand, quite weak Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, well, this one is even one flight down, roughly speaking…

In those composers we can see a big deal of sensuousness, keen perception of the world based on their own personalities, on their own emotions. But if we take out all the emotions from the music of, let’s say Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff – Rachmaninoff is also a remarkable “painter” – which is art work, poetry, sensuousness in both of their music. If we take it out, there will be nothing left because there is not a great deal of intellectual grain there.

By the way, we can also continue our thought and see lots of flaws in Tchaikovsky’s musical work, like the way he connects one musical thought with another, there is no flexibility there, and we can literally see the “seams”, like he sews several materials together. Because there is no power of intellectual thought in the compositions of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, with which all is connected, cemented be it literature or poetry… But those three – Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky – they stand out because of their intellectual force, not to mention their ingenious grass-root talent as composers.

So let’s just follow this. In Yaga, Mussorgsky, every few measures gives us this or that color representing the evil, and he does it explicitly by the will of his intellectual thought. This is very easy to follow. You don’t have to be a musician or a music critic to do this, you can just turn on your computer for the first time, listen to me talk, and you will understand anyway, because it’s a universal human thing, it doesn’t even have to do with music, it’s clear and simple.

Anyway, enters Baba Yaga. Mussorgsky chooses the dullest musical interval there is (27:13-27:15), such an incredibly dull and breaking into our consciousness seventh (27:32), disgusting dissonance totally without any personal attachment. There is no crescendo, no diminuendo, there is nothing to connect with, nothing… There is simply the breaking of a hole into our skulls. First (27:54), second (27:56), repeat, crack, gap, breaking in for the second time, namely, it’s a pure detestable aggression (28:09-28:13). Then it changes a little, the interval becomes… (28:19-28:20) unfolds with the help of a small chromatic motion (28:24-28:28), but all of this is the form of a blunt aggression expressed in music, nothing else. It is incredibly simple and tremendously effective. Now, let’s put it all together (28:42-28:51). This is the evil in its pure form.

The next idea (28:57-29:04). Very laconic. What is this? Maybe it is the very first superficial association; it could be something formal, something depicting the image of Baba Yaga, like her mortar and the acceleration, right? Somehow. I imagine he wasn’t even thinking about it but went straight to the cultural perception of the Russian root-deep vice. We see the oprichnina here, right? The shouts of “Goida! Goida!” (29:35-29:41). The lackeys of Ivan The Terrible! Mussorgsky’s extraordinary perception. We know all these intonations from Boris (Godunov), and from the rest of his works. He had this incredible perception of an artist! He describes the Russian evil like no one else. Like no one else. This is an amazing gift, another significant topic of research for psychologists and psychoanalysis specialists; let them figure out how he did it. But no one had that perception of Russian evil like Mussorgsky had.

Anyway, he understood all of the traits of a character splendidly, and his outlook was much broader then the outlook of any of the musical patriots. But even in the very barbaric episodes in Stravinsky’s work, and by the way Stravinsky depicted Russian barbarity very well, with irony, and presented it in an absolutely disgusting, hellish way, using the instrumental techniques of the 20th century. But still, Mussorgsky’s simplicity as related to barbarity, it’s more effective than even the most sophisticated symphonic harmonies of Stravinsky. Because Stravinsky was looking at it from the outside, he is like his namesake, Dr. Stravinsky, he has this outside knowledge of things, and he is showing to us all this barbarity and all this filth, but he is doing it from the distance, as a detached observer. But here, we are in the very heart of the evil (31:33-31:40). That is, here you can hear the shouts “Goida! Goida!” before they rob, rape, burn, before the violence …

I will be frequently referring to the modern day situations and draw parallels because a lot of evil is happening today in Russia, and the evil is celebrating, the same evil, not the mythological, the filthy one, like in The Gnome, but the one Modest Petrovich depicts in Baba Yaga. You will see a lot of likeness, you yourselves will draw the comparisons. It’s impossible to mention everything in one short narrative! You will listen to the music later yourselves, and you will experience your own personal associations while encountering the Russian evil, i.e. staying in line or applying to the Russian embassy at present time. It is ageless, timeless; it is the trait of the nation. We can use this bad word here that has greatly compromised itself in the history of many nations.

So, the lackeys are ready to go about their business (32:00-33:07), they had moved in, there is a very unpleasant passage here, the hollow fourths intervals (33:17-33:22), in addition accentuated by syncopation. And again, a superficial music critic will tell us something about limping Baba Yaga because one of her legs is made out of bone. Like we don’t know that one of her legs is

made out of bone, like we don’t know she limps! But we should look into something totally different here, we should look into what the language of music is telling us, and not into some superficial mythology for children from the Good Night Little Ones show.

So, next. What we hear first, is that bang. Second, oprichniki ready to do their awful job, anyway, all this horror is coming from there. Then, we are hearing this movement, crooked, beastly, and incredibly aggressive. It’s not enough that it is chromatic, the kind we dislike, that symbolizes the reptile (33:22-34:24), but it is also a kind of reptile, which is void (34:28-34:30), resting on the void interval, it is a volumetric reptile, a live reptile, plus an aggressive one! It’s not just a reptilian, it’s an attacking reptilian! Plus, in the syncopation fashion (34:45-34:52), absolutely horrific image! Horrific aggressive Russian reptilian.

Then we hear the clucking sounds (35:10-35:12), the forslags appearing from above and coming down on us, crashing down on us (35:16-35:22).

In addition to the approaching reptilian in the background, something else is crushing down on us from above (35:47-35:49). At that, jaws are coming together and we are stuck in between, listening to all of this. From acoustical point of view, it is splendidly done! First he was preparing us within one of the musical registers with all of the configurations of this aggressive evil (35:47-35:49), that is, we are already familiar with the situation, and all of a sudden something is crashing down on us (35:56-36:02), the effect of being squeezed, and we are in between the tongs of evil. An incredible feel for drama, you cannot put it differently!

Next (36:15-36:17), the tongs have come together, we hear the pressure from below (36:21-36:23), it passes once. And then the next musical idea…

You can’t even call them musical ideas, so strong is the intellectual power behind it all, so strongly everything is dictated, everything is changing every other two measures. So much meaning, so much thought! First, the bone breaking. Second, getting ready for the road. Third, squeezing us into the ring of evil, like a python is squeezing its prey. And then, we finally hear the native association of this evil, it comes as a dashing rakish song (37:05-37:11). The evil (37:13-37:20) becomes cynical. These are (37:25-37:27) colors on fire, like an evil flame, but! (37:34-37:37) here we see a mockery. This is a remarkable, very simple depiction of cynicism, and the choir is pouring the song in the upper voice, a dashing Russian song (37:52-37:58). But all together it comes out as a dashing evil (38:02-38:10)! Absolutely stunning image that could be associated with the modern oligarchs.

For instance, Robbie Williams made a big mistake, picking a non-Russian melody when he wanted to create, and created, a hit where he got Prokofiev’s (38:31-38:36) Romeo and Juliet theme and portrayed the modern oligarchs and epitome of modern Russian hardship and evil. But this is a huge mistake because there is no real Russian character there but a neoclassical mannerism. If Robbie Williams had a better understanding of music, he would have taken Modest Petrovich’s theme, because no one else has conveyed such true musical images. They are right here (39:02-39:10). For Prokofiev possesses no national character, only heavy aggression, most likely of European origin. Whereas here we have our dear “brothers” of today, here they are (39:27-39:33), brazen, cynical, lethally aggressive, stupidly audacious!

Next musical idea, phenomenal color! What do we have then? Then Mussorgsky presents us with pure ringing of the bells (38:55-40:22), pure innocent bells. But he is the master of bells! No one depicted such a variety of bells in music, any way you like it: alarming, alerting, pure, small, big, and bass-like. Anything you like! He himself was the bell, speaking Russian epic bell. So, why bell and why such purity? The purity is in the bell-ring itself (41:01-41:10), a beautiful ringing of the bell, almost like in a church. What do we have in another voice, in other voices? Here we have A sharp and F sharp, a third (41:34-41:39) that creates such an unpleasant alarming dissonance to the bell-ringing (41:46-41:52), to the pure bell that if it were left alone, this pure ringing of the bell, then we wouldn’t understand none of what Modest Petrovich tells us. But then he adds the bass bells, and look what begins to take place here! This is what being a genius means (42:11).

By simple means, the most limited means he presents us with the dissonance of the bell (42:24-42:41). That’s why the pure silver bell, when it’s layered on top of dissonance, turns into something that Russians like very much, something Bulgakov wrote about the apartment where the devil and his entourage live, where Voland lives. He calls it “no-good apartment”. And, so to speak, these are “no-good bells”. This is a remarkable and such a delicate artistic denotation. Meaning, this is of the devil… All of us are so used to these epithets that they do not work for our consciousness, and do not make us to look at it from a fresh point of view. The problem with the Bulgakov’s phrase was that, at first sight, it was a very innocent description, “no-good apartment”, but it had a great deal of a hidden meaning and made us pay great deal of attention to this simple epithet.

Moreover, he achieves such an effect of this bell as it were cracked, and it sounds like a washbasin! How in the world could it be achieved in such an epic portrayal?! The bell in the upper voice, in the middle voice, in the lower voice, but combining all these three voices we get not a bell but devil knows what! We get a diabolic reverberation of a leaky cracked washbasin!

And what is it? Well, it symbolizes Russia, the ringing of the bells! Right? Naturally! The flight over Russia. The evil is flying over Russia. Something awful has happened to the soul of Russia. That’s what these bells are speaking of; their washbasin is all over Russia (44:49-45:14). I have shifted the accent presently, accentuating that washbasin that is thundering all over Russia. This is the image of Russia getting down to wickedness, becoming vicious, rotten, losing her mind, wallowing in the evil.

Then what does Modest Petrovich connect these awful sounds with? After that (45:49-45:52) we have the mocking intonations in the upper register, he separates it with little ties (46:00-46:05). This is a sarcastic, derisive laugh. All that, which we know about the most terrible Russian criminal events. “I’m gonna kill you!” This is the Russian inferno, but not the inferno in a fairy tale mythological fashion, but the inferno in a human sense of the word, the one that is akin to the eerie horrible frightful aspects of the Russian character. So, (46:43-46:49) they have killed and laughed at it.

Let’s go further (46:55-46:59). Here it is, the violence hammering down the chromatic passages, each one of these forcible, laughing, beastly, cynical modulations coming to a blow (47:16-47:24). A brutish rape of the flesh accompanied by a cynical laugh.

I cannot resist myself from drawing parallels with the modern day, I know that intelligent people are watching us and they understand what is going on in the world, they understand all this horror of the Russian history sliding down to the bottom (48:48-48:49); so, this modulation of obviously unfair cynical mockery over something that is being destroyed, this is the voice of the modern day ministry of foreign affairs, some “Maria Zacharova” (49:06-49:10). You can hear it perfectly clear, these modulations, not in the voice, but in the metaphysics of the modern day bureaucrat (49:20-49:28) mocking and laughing at the common sense. And then, simply more of those finishing blows.

Thus ends the first part of this musical ugliness. And thank God, because it is simply too unbearable, it’s too much for your nerves! If you properly express it in music, it can be damaging for the human psyche!

The middle part (50:14-50:20). Thank God, Mussorgsky steps away from the depiction of the active evil here, because it is simply too repulsive! Here, thank God, we are going back to the fairy tale motifs, and we can take a short break. This is, of course the same very moment that we all know from our childhood: Ivan finds himself at the edge of the forest, and every one of us, who imagines himself a little boy in a fairy tale. And there is a little hut standing at the edge of the forest, and everyone’s favorite saying: “Little hut, little hut, turn your back to the forest, and your front towards me…” And basically, all the middle part is about the “maneuvering” little hut, and we return to the fairy tale. And of course, they are masterfully depicted, and we will look into it now, all these “Ahs!” and “Ohs!” are masterfully illustrated, all these moans and groans of the forest goblins and all those who are associated in our minds with the fairy tale landscape (51:58-52:05), you can’t have a better depiction of it.

Until this day, all the Hollywood music arrangers depict some scary “Ahs!” and “Boos!” the same way. Then (52:24-53:22), we are still at that same edge of that very same endangered forest (52:27), Modest Petrovich only adds some strokes (52:32), some inner tremor (52:40-52:50). The atmosphere is very tense, with expectation of a possible blow from any direction (52:56-53:01), and then again the forest goblins’ Oh-ing and Ah-ing (53:01-53:10), scary sounds of the forest that Modest Petrovich depicts splendidly with chromatic movements (53:13-53:22). You can imagine it, right? All these goblins, all these stumps that, all of a sudden, turn into these improbable forest personages.

Thus ends the middle part and we return to the same exact portrait of an aggressive evil. So let’s not dwell on it but move on (53:47-53:51) to the same blows, with only the accents shifting to depict the unpredictability of that evil (53:53-54:06).

The unpredictability of the Russian evil is something very significant, it varies at all times and its palette to cause suffering is incredibly immense (54:23-54:29). Again, we listen to this boisterous nasty theme (54:31-54:36), again, the sound of the washbasin (54:38-54:49), again, the derisive laugh (54:48-54:54), the blows (54:49-55:03), and the insane laugh (55:02-55:09).

And it all ends with this natural disaster orgy (55:12-55:21). It seems like all is absorbed by this natural disaster, and suddenly, everything explodes (55:29-55:33) I disrupts by the pure harmonies of the next piece, the final piece, the apotheosis of the good, and all things good, whatever it might have been.

Just such a remarkable contrast. The last two pieces Modest Petrovich presents are pure good vs. pure evil; pure evil vs. pure good, they confront. It’s a remarkable dramatic effect.

Thank you very much!

“Tales are lies, but here’s a blessing

Clever fellows learn a lesson!” (Russian saying – translator’s note)

Let’s try to remember the lesson Modest Petrovich gave us!

Translated by Fira Headrick and Masha Taborisskaya.

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