Comparisons have often been made between the sinister musical world of Modest Petrovich Musorgsky (1839-81) and the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-81) . The legitimacy of such comparisons is confirmed, for example, by that scene in Boris Godunov (1874) which takes place on the square of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, and in which the Holy Fool, or yurodivy, who has been teased and robbed by some children, tells Tsar Boris to put them to death "just as you murdered the little tsarevich". Boris, who is genuinely tormented by his guilt, does not have the Holy Fool arrested for stating so bluntly his horrible crime in front of the people, but asks him instead to pray for his soul. In this remarkable scene —the protoype of which (like most, but not all, scenes in this opera) is to be found in Pushkin's historical tragedy of 1825—Musorgsky shows an insight into the workings of human guilt and conscience which is no less profound than that of the author of Crime and Punishment (1866). Moreover, just as Dostoevsky frequently portrayed meek and innocent figures who are easily put upon or abused by others—for instance, Sonya in the latter novel; Prince Myshkin in The Idiot (1869)—so Musorgsky was also drawn to the "insulted and injured", to borrow the title of another of Dostoevsky's novels. Thus, his moving song Svetik Savishna (1866) features another yurodivy—in this case one who wretchedly implores a beautiful village girl for her love. It is known to be based on a scene which Musorgsky witnessed as a child when growing up in the countryside, and this acute sensitivity to the suffering of others is something that the composer shared with Dostoevsky.
However, both Dostoevsky and Musorgsky were also 'attracted' to the other side of the coin—that is, to the exploration of human cruelty. There are many scenes in Dostoevsky's novels in which one character plays cat and mouse with another—a notable example being Svidrigailov with Raskolnikov and his sister in Crime and Punishment—and something similar occurs in Boris Godunov, in that scene in the Tsar's chamber where the boyar Shuisky deliberately torments Boris by describing in detail the saintly appearance of the infant tsarevich's corpse . This is followed by Boris's hallucination, the dramatic effect of which is intensified by some of the most blood-curdling music ever written. Now, Turgenev's hostility towards Dostoevsky is well-known. Although he respected his younger colleague for what he had gone through in Siberia, and also thought highly of some of his works—Poor Folk (1846), Notes from the House of the Dead (1862), the first part of Crime and Punishment, and The Writer's Diary (1876-77 issues)—Turgenev on the whole disliked Dostoevsky's psychological manner and his predilection for 'extreme', 'unrealistic' situations . Musorgsky's affinity with Dostoevsky in that sense might therefore lead one to expect that Turgenev, once he became better acquainted with the composer's works—which did not happen until 1874—would react similarly. This, however, was not so, since Musorgsky's music contained much more besides psychological probing, not least the qualities of originality, truthfulness, and even beauty, which Turgenev always looked for in works of art.
Turgenev's earliest recorded comments on Musorgsky's music date to that concert in Saint Petersburg on 18 March 1867 at which he made the acquaintance of Stasov. In his valuable reminiscences Stasov cites Turgenev's own words, pronounced during the interval of that concert, as a vivid example of his hostility towards the "Mighty Handful":
"It's not worth coming to Russia for the sake of such a "Russian school"! You can get that kind of stuff anywhere you like: in Germany, in France, at any concert... and no one will take the least notice... But here you immediately have to start talking of great creations, an original Russian school! Russian, original! And this King Lear overture by Mr Balakirev. Why, Balakirev and Shakespeare: what can there be in common between the two?! A giant of poetry and a pygmy of music, who actually isn't even a musician. And then... then that chorus The Destruction of Sennacherib by Mr Musorgsky... what self-delusion, what blindness, what ignorance, what disregard for Europe!..." 
At first sight, there might seem to be a contradiction in these remarks. On the one hand, Turgenev accuses the "new Russian school of music" in general, and Musorgsky in particular, of "ignorance" and "disregard" for the European musical heritage. But on the other hand, he suggests that such music could be heard in other European countries. That this is not in fact a contradiction becomes clear from the letter which Turgenev sent to Pauline Viardot after that concert:
"Yesterday I went to a grand concert of Russian music of the future, because, you know, we too have such a thing! But it is something completely lamentable, devoid of any originality, of any ideas. It's simply a mediocre copy of what is being done in Germany" 
Turgenev's ironic reference to Richard Wagner's music—Zukunftsmusik, or "music of the future", as it was called by his enemies in Germany—suggests that in his view the works by Balakirev and Musorgsky which he had just heard at that concert were an imitation of Wagner. This would certainly not have recommended them to him, since Turgenev was not at all fond of Wagner's personality or his music, which he considered to be built on glaring orchestral effects, in contrast to the graceful beauty of Mozart's music and the noble restraint of Beethoven and Schubert even in the saddest passages of their works .
However, Turgenev was not entirely fair in these dismissive remarks about the "Mighty Handful", for neither Balakirev nor his pupil Musorgsky could possibly be accused of "ignorance" of the European heritage. Under his teacher's guidance, Musorgsky had thoroughly studied the great works of European classical music, from Gluck and Mozart to Mendelssohn and Berlioz. It was in fact for the sake of being able to dedicate more time to the study of music and to his own compositional efforts that Musorgsky—against the advice of his family and friends—had decided, in 1858, to resign his officer's commission with the prestigious Preobrazhensky Guards Regiment. Secondly, with regard to the alleged influence of Wagner on the "new Russian school"—which to Turgenev was so obvious—it must be said that the members of the "Mighty Handful", whilst paying tribute to the pioneering spirit of Wagner, actually saw their own efforts as lying in a completely different direction to that of the German composer. Moreover, it was precisely Wagner's influence which they so sharply criticised in the works of one of their most hostile opponents, the music critic and composer Aleksandr Serov (1820-71). Thus, after attending the première of Serov's first opera, Judith, in 1863, Musorgsky described it as a "banal French melodrama with Wagnerian howlings in the violins" . The composers of the "Mighty Handful", and especially Musorgsky, had no wish to imitate foreign models, least of all the German Wagner. Just like Turgenev in fact, Musorgsky felt that Wagner's operas were not concerned with genuine human situations and thus devoid of interest. For Musorgsky believed in "a real art which loves people and draws its life from their joys, grief and sufferings" . Turgenev, however, did not know about Musorgsky's views on Wagner, and at that concert in Saint Petersburg in 1867 he wrongly saw in him an imitator of the German composer.
The predominance of declamation (as opposed to distinct arias and ensemble numbers) in both Wagner's music dramas and such Russian operas as Boris Godunov and Khovanschina might at first glance seem to point to a certain affinity. However, it is worth stressing that in these Russian operas the orchestra never drowns the singers' voices, as is so often the case with Wagner. The most important difference, though, lies in the central role of the chorus in the Russian operatic tradition, and, in particular, in Musorgsky's two masterpieces. Musorgsky's striving to give a distinct voice to each of his choruses, rather than making them subordinate to the leading characters, stemmed from his love for the Russian common folk, and this is something which Turgenev, the author of A Huntsman's Sketches (1847-51), would certainly have appreciated when he got to know the composer in 1874.
After that concert in 1867 the next comment by Turgenev on Musorgsky's music refers to a work which is not very well known—the satirical song The Peep-Show (1870), in which the composer ridiculed all the opponents of the "Mighty Handful": the classicists in the Russian Music Society founded by Anton Rubinstein in 1859, the fans of Italian opera, and Serov as the self-appointed "apostle" of Wagner in Russia . In a letter from London to his friend Pavel Annenkov at the end of 1870, Turgenev mentioned The Peep-Show, a copy of which had been sent to Pauline Viardot together with some songs by Rimsky-Korsakov: "Musorgsky's joke is neither funny nor clever" . Turgenev's prejudiced attitude against the "Mighty Handful" at the time, as well as his sympathy for Anton Rubinstein's endeavours to professionalize music life in Russia along German lines, probably accounts for his negative response to Musorgsky's "joke".
With regard to the question of humour, it is significant that Musorgsky's favourite writer all his life was Nikolai Gogol (1809-52). Gogol's lively stories, starting with Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka (1831-32)—a collection of stories all set in his native Ukraine—exerted a strong fascination on succeeding generations of Russian writers and composers. (Apart from Musorgsky, both Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov were to write operas based on works by Gogol.) For many Russian readers, however, including Turgenev and Dostoevsky, Gogol's humour often contained a bitter and tragic kernel. In this respect it is worth quoting what Turgenev, in an article about Russian literature for a Parisian journal in 1845, said about Gogol:
"...The success of this book [Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka] was tremendous. Everyone was enchanted by the strength and naturalness of his colouring, by his rich comic vein, by the subtlety of his observations, by his genuine originality [...] Gogol is today the most beloved writer in Russia [...] Along with a profound knowledge of the country and the people whom he describes, along with his special gift as a narrator, he also has an inexhaustible fount of humour—that which Pushkin didn't quite have. It is a special kind of humour, characteristic of no-one but him and stamped with that deep sadness which one can always find at the bottom of a Slavic heart" 
Musorgsky felt much the same about Gogol and, in general, about the sadness inherent in Russian rural life, despite all its picturesque scenes and lively merry-making—a sadness which was a legacy of centuries of serfdom. When in 1874 Musorgsky decided to write a comic opera based on Gogol's story Sorochinsky Fair, he was criticized by the other members of the "Mighty Handful" who argued that it was a mere farce, unworthy of his talent. A few years later, in a letter to the poet Aleksei Golenischev-Kutuzov, he gave vent to his indignation at their failure to understand the significance of such humour:
"It wasn't so long ago that Svetik Slavishna and The Seminarist [two of Musorgsky's songs] made them roar with laughter, until it was explained to them by someone in the know that both these scenes have a tragic leaven inside. Varlaam and Misail (in Boris Godunov) also provoked laughter until they turned up in the scene with the crowd of vagabonds: then people understood what dangerous beasts these seemingly so funny figures were" 
There is certainly an ominously savage force in the drunken tramp Varlaam's song about the storming of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible. Moreover, the role played by Varlaam and his fellow-vagrant Misail in the scene of the peasant revolt near the town of Kromy—a scene which Musorgsky alludes to in the above letter, and which, for censorship reasons, was omitted from productions of the opera after 1876—leaves no doubt as to how among these lowly and ignorant figures from the populace there could suddenly flare up a storm of protest against the authorities whom they had previously obeyed.
Now, Turgenev all his life shuddered at the thought of a nationwide peasant rebellion in Russia. He liked to quote Pushkin's words from the historical novel The Captain's Daughter (1836), which deals with the Pugachev Revolt of 1773-74: "May God spare you from seeing a Russian rebellion in all its senselessness and cruelty!"  Musorgsky for his part did not sympathise with any revolutionary movements either, but he was always irresistibly drawn to portraying the hardships suffered by the common folk—by all "Little Mother Russia", as he put it in a letter to Stasov in 1872. In this remarkable letter one can again sense a strong affinity with Dostoevsky. Just as the latter attacked, through such figures as Raskolnikov and Ivan Karamazov, the arrogance of the Russian intelligentsia who claimed to be friends of the people, but in reality looked down upon those they wished to serve, so Musorgsky argued bitterly:
"We've moved forward!", you say, but you're actually talking nonsense, for: "We're still where we were before!" Papers and books, they have moved forward—but we are still where we were before. As long as the people cannot see for themselves what it is that they [the educated classes] are trying to make out of them; until they themselves actually want to be turned into this or that, we'll remain stuck in the same place as before! All these would-be benefactors are so keen on attaining glory, on having their greatness confirmed by documents, but the people continue to suffer and groan; and in order not to groan, they get themselves wildly drunk and then groan even more: We haven't moved forward one bit!" 
As for Turgenev, he always retained his faith in the fruits of civilization spreading in rural Russia thanks to the efforts of educated men and women who were prepared to live and work among the peasantry. In his attitude there was none of the condescension so criticised by Musorgsky and Dostoevsky, for he genuinely believed that the peasants were capable of thinking for themselves:
"The role of the educated class in Russia is to be the transmitter of civilisation to the people, so that the latter may decide for themselves what they should reject or accept" 
However, despite the high hopes which he had of the 1861 Emancipation Act, he understood that it would take a long time for the peasantry's living conditions to improve. Like Musorgsky, who as a child had listened with rapt attention to the peasants' songs, Turgenev recognised the deeply ingrained suffering which many of these songs expressed, and in a letter of 1862 he observed:
"The singing of Russian peasant women really is one of the saddest things in the world—it is suffused with an atmosphere of oppression, profound solitude, and horrors which have become a habit" 
This sense of oppression, these horrors are also to be found in Musorgsky's music, because the composer sought to be true to the reality of life for so many in Russia down the centuries. At the same time, though, he was also able to draw inspiration from the more uplifting aspects of Russian life and history. The letter which he wrote to Balakirev shortly after his first ever visit to Moscow in the summer of 1859 is very telling in this respect:
"On the whole, Moscow has caused me to migrate into a new world—the world of the past (a world which may perhaps be dirty, but which, I cannot explain why, has a pleasant effect on me)—and it has left me with very positive impressions. Do you know what? I used to be a cosmopolitan, but now I've undergone a kind of rebirth: everything that is Russian is becoming dear to me" 
In these lines one can already sense the future composer of the magnificent prologue to Boris Godunov which culminates with the people hailing their newly-crowned Tsar in the courtyard of the Kremlin, accompanied by the pealing of the cathedral bells! Musorgsky's turning away from "cosmopolitanism" brings to mind Lezhnev's famous declaration at the end of Turgenev's novel Rudin (1856):
"Cosmopolitanism is nonsense—worse than that—cosmopolitanism is nothing at all: without a sense of nationhood there can be no art, no truth, no life, nothing whatsoever" (Ch. XII)
Musorgsky's subsequent letters reflect his growing love for all things Russian. For instance, in the summer of 1868, when he was living in the countryside and working on his experimental opera The Wedding, based on Gogol's comedy, he wrote to Glinka's sister:
"I am taking note of all these characteristic peasant women and men—this may come in handy for my future works. How many fresh aspects there are in the nature of the Russian people that have not yet been touched by art! How many! And what rich and splendid ones they are!.." 
And in 1873 he shared with the painter Ilya Repin his plans for the operas he hoped to write after Khovanschina:
"I want to do an opera about the people: even when I am asleep, it is always before my eyes; even when I am eating and drinking, I do not stop thinking about the people—it almost haunts me, this people which alone is so wholesome and great, without any sugary embellishments. And what a truly tremendous richness there is in the way the people talk, what material there is here for musical characterisation—as long as Russia isn't all clogged up with railway lines!" 
One could certainly apply to Musorgsky what Turgenev, in an article written in 1846, said about the qualities which distinguished true "national writers":
"In our view, worthy of this title is he who, either thanks to a special gift of nature, or as a result of an agitated and varied life, has, as it were, become Russian a second time; he who has steeped himself through and through in the essence of his people, its language and its way of life [...] In order to deserve the appellation of a 'national writer', one requires not so much a personal and original talent, as sympathy for the people, an attitude which is kindred to theirs; one needs to be able to observe naturally and generously" 
Turgenev's notion of "becoming Russian a second time" would, paradoxically, be taken up and developed by his old 'rival' Dostoevsky in his famous Pushkin speech of 1880. In Musorgsky's case this spiritual rebirth, which started with his visit to Moscow in 1859, caused him to take a deep interest in Russian history. In Boris Godunov it would, among other things, enable him to convey so effectively the solemn and wise character of the medieval chroniclers. The monologue of the chronicler-monk Pimen, "One more chapter, the final one..." , may well have been one of the numbers from that opera which Turgenev heard at the private concert in Osip Petrov's house in 1874, and which convinced him of Musorgsky's talent (see Section V below). In his own speech at the Pushkin festivities in Moscow in June 1880, Turgenev would single out precisely the figure of Pimen and that vivid tavern scene as examples of how Russia's greatest poet was steeped in his people's life and history:
"Think, for instance, of the scene in the tavern from Boris Godunov, or the History of the Manor of Goryukhino, etc. And such figures as Pimen, as the central characters in The Captain's Daughter, do they not show how the past, too, lived in Pushkin as vividly as the present and as the future which he foretold?" 
Musorgsky's splendid characterization of Pimen, Varlaam, and Misail must certainly have stuck in Turgenev's mind, and his praise for Pushkin's play may therefore indirectly also have been praise for the opera Boris Godunov.
Musorgsky always considered himself to be a pioneer whose mission it was to open up uncharted lands in the world of art. It was in this spirit that during the summer of 1868, encouraged by the example of Dargomyzhsky's The Stone Guest, he had the idea of trying to write a completely experimental opera based on Gogol's comedy The Wedding: in this opera his intention was to "reproduce simple human speech through faithful and artistic music" . Even though he completed just one act of this conversational opera before abandoning the project and embarking instead on Boris Godunov that autumn, he never lost his sense of mission. In October 1872—by which point Boris had been completed, but not yet staged, and work on Khovanschina was already under way—Musorgsky wrote to Stasov that he had no interest in writing beautiful music as such:
"The artistic representation of mere beauty, in its material sense, is something coarse and childish—it is the stage of infancy in art. [Conveying] the subtlest traits in human nature and that of human masses, unrelentingly digging into these hardly charted lands and conquering them—that is the true vocation of an artist. «Towards new shores!» without fear, steering bravely through storms, sandbanks and reefs—«towards new shores!»" 
At first glance, these thoughts might seem to stand in stark opposition to Turgenev's belief that an artist was entitled to strive after the creation of beauty as such: "Beauty is after all the ultimate goal of human life. Truth, love, happiness—everything comes together in beauty" . And yet the ideas which Turgenev and Musorgsky had about the task of the artist were not actually that different, since for Turgenev, artistic beauty lay precisely in the faithful and poetic representation of real life. As he explained in a letter to an acquaintance in 1875:
"I am principally a realist—and what interests me above all is the living truth of human physiognomy" 
There is no essential contradiction between Turgenev's 'poetic realism' and the purpose of art as Musorgsky saw it—namely, "to converse truthfully with people" .
Still, the absence of immediately recognisable beauty in those works by Musorgsky which Turgenev had heard so far—that is before 1874 (see Section V below)—clearly disposed him unfavourably towards the composer. In reality, of course, it wasn't that Musorgsky was incapable of creating 'beautiful' music in the usually accepted sense. On the contrary, the overture to Khovanschina, entitled "Dawn over the Moscow River" , for instance, is very beautiful. This is also true of the peculiar love duet between Dimitry and Marina at the end of the Polish act in Boris Godunov—an act added by Musorgsky after the first version of the opera was rejected by the Mariinsky Theatre in 1871—which contains a highly inspired melody: "O Tsarevich, I implore you!".
Such purely lyrical passages, however, are always exceptions in the music of Musorgsky, for he did not care to express merely beautiful emotions, but wanted rather to get at all the ins and outs of human nature. Even in the above duet it is clear that he was more interested in capturing the various nuances of Marina's ambition! Moreover, Boris Godunov was an innovative opera also in terms of its musical structure, with its continuous declamation in many scenes and its remarkable choral 'dialogues'. Musorgsky himself was fully aware of this, and before the first (incomplete) staging of his opera at the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre on 17 February 1873—for which only three scenes had been approved by the Opera Committee: the tavern scene and the two scenes from the Polish act—he was expecting the fiercest attacks from all the enemies of the "Mighty Handful". Among the latter he had every reason to count Turgenev at that point, for Stasov had almost certainly told him of the writer's harsh remarks the previous year about how only Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov had any real talent, and all the other young Russian composers would be "completely forgotten within 15, 20 years" . At any rate, a month before the stage première of those three scenes from Boris Godunov, Musorgsky sent Stasov a letter in which he defied all the 'aesthetic conservatives', including Turgenev and Mme Viardot in Paris:
"Yes, on to our judgement soon! How merry it makes me to dream of how we will go up to the place of execution, thinking about, and living entirely in, Khovanschina at the same time that we are about to be judged for Boris; cheerfully and audaciously we look out into the faraway musical distance which beckons us, and then the prospect of this judgement cannot frighten us. People will say: "You have trampled upon divine and human laws!" We will reply: "Yes!" and think to ourselves: "just you wait till you see what's coming next!" People will start croaking about us: "You will be forgotten soon and forever!" We will reply: "Non, non et non, Madame!" We've got enough perkiness inside us to dish out to all these judges!" 
The performance of these three scenes in February 1873 turned out to be a tremendous success, with Musorgsky being called out onstage about thirty times in the course of the evening. Even a critic as hostile to the "Mighty Handful" as Tchaikovsky's friend Herman Laroche (1845-1904) praised the fine "individual characterisation" of all the figures in the tavern scene and spoke enthusiastically about how the duet between Marina and Dimitry was "full of splendid charm and sweetness, something that one would never have expected of the author, judging from what had been published of his works so far" . This success was of course a great boost to Musorgsky's morale, although the obstacles he soon had to face when negotiating with the theatre management, which insisted on certain cuts when the whole opera was staged for the first time at the Mariinsky Theatre on 8 February 1874, as well as his work on Khovanschina, served to remind him again of his pioneering mission which he felt he had to carry through against universal hostility. That is why his motto always remained: "Towards new shores!". He often repeated it in his letters to Stasov, to whom Khovanschina was dedicated.
In his reminiscenses Stasov recalled how for a long time the members of the "Mighty Handful" had refused to let Turgenev attend any of their musical soirées, despite his repeated requests to Stasov. This was because they were all indignant at the way Turgenev had seemed to question the significance of Glinka in his novel Smoke (1867). They were also aware of the dismissive comments which over the years he had made about the "new Russian school" in general and about Dargomyzhsky's The Stone Guest in particular. All the same, Turgenev was indeed very keen to attend one of their gatherings in order to get a better idea of the new Russian music. According to Stasov, "Musorgsky was the one who was most against it" (i.e. against their performing their works for Turgenev) .
When Turgenev arrived in Saint Petersburg in the spring of 1874 for one of his usual short visits before heading on to his estate at Spasskoe, there is no doubt that he was aware—through the Russian newspapers which he received in Paris—of the recent première of Boris Godunov and the way that its enthusiastic reception by the public was not shared by most critics, one of whom had described the opera as "a cacophony in five acts" . Thus, immediately after his arrival in Saint Petersburg, on 19 May 1874, Turgenev wrote to Pauline Viardot to tell her that the opera season there was unfortunately over: "The Russian opera has been closed, and I shall not have the pleasure of hearing those delightful cacophonies" . Still, despite this ironic allusion to the hostile reviews of Boris, it is clear that Turgenev lamented not being able to hear this new opera. This may explain why a few days later Stasov finally managed to persuade his friends to relent in their uncompromising stance and to grant Turgenev his wish to attend one of their musical gatherings. However, as discussed in the section on the "Mighty Handful", the soirée which was held in Stasov's apartment in Saint Petersburg on 4 June 1874 had to be broken off shortly after it started when Turgenev suffered an intense attack of gout. Stasov lamented in his memoirs that as a result of this, Turgenev had had no other opportunity to hear the works of the "new Russian school", and that his prejudices against the latter had continued unabated. Stasov, though, was unaware that only the previous evening, Turgenev had met Musorgsky at the house of the veteran bass Osip Petrov and, moreover, heard the composer perform excerpts from his works. This is what Turgenev wrote to Pauline Viardot a few hours after that notable meeting on 3 June 1874:
"Today I was invited to have dinner in old Petrov's house: I gave him a copy of your song, which pleased him greatly [...] Petrov still admires you as enthusiastically as in the past. In his drawing-room there's a bust of you, crowned with laurels, which still bears a strong resemblance to you. I also met his wife (the contralto) [Anna Vorobyova-Petrova]. She is sixty years old [...] After dinner she sang two quite original and touching romances by Musorgsky (the author of Boris Godunov, who was also present), with a voice that is still young and charming and has a very expressive timbre. She sang them wonderfully! I was moved to tears, I assure you. Then Musorgsky played for us and sang, with a rather hoarse voice, some excerpts from his opera and the other one that he is composing now—and the music seemed to me very characteristic and interesting, upon my honour! Old Petrov sang the role of the old profligate and vagabond monk (Varlaam—have a look at the translation of Pushkin's tragedy by [Louis] Viardot)—it was splendid! I am starting to believe that there really is a future in all of this. Outwardly, Musorgsky reminds one of Glinka—it is just that his nose is all red (unfortunately, he is an alcoholic), he has pale but beautiful eyes, and fine lips which are squeezed into a fat face with flabby cheeks. I liked him: he is very natural and unaffected, and does not put on any airs. He played us the introduction to his second opera [Khovanschina]. It is a bit Wagnerian, but full of feeling and beautiful. Forward, forward! Russian artists!!" 
The importance of this letter, which was not published until the 1970s, cannot be sufficiently stressed. It shows that Turgenev was immediately captivated by Musorgsky's masterpiece Boris Godunov—from which he heard Varlaam's song and presumably also the whole tavern scene—and by the lyrical beauty of the Khovanschina overture , and that this caused him to forget his previous hostility and prejudices against the "Mighty Handful". After citing this letter in his book on Turgenev and music, Abram Gozenpud rightly observed:
"This remarkable letter says a lot. Turgenev only had to hear Musorgsky's music and that was enough to make him instantly believe in its vitality. For before that he really didn't know this composer's music properly" 
There are many other enthusiastic accounts of how Musorgsky, at private concerts, would perform excerpts from his works. Yuliya Platonova, for example, who created the role of Marina in Boris Godunov, recalled in her memoirs: "He would perform his opera splendidly. His expressive declamation made a tremendous impression on all the listeners" . So Turgenev really was very fortunate on that day: he heard two of Musorgsky's romances (probably including The Orphan, as it was dedicated to Anna Vorobyova-Petrova), Varlaam's song and very likely also the whole tavern scene performed by the composer himself and Osip Petrov, as well as the Khovanschina overture , albeit played only on a piano.
From the above letter, however, it is also clear that Turgenev noticed Musorgsky's weakness for drink, in which the composer sought to forget his sorrows. For after Cui's grossly unfair review of Boris Godunov and Rimsky-Korsakov's acceptance of a professorship at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, it increasingly seemed to Musorgsky that his former comrades had betrayed the cause of the "Mighty Handful", and this compounded his feelings of solitude and depression. Unfortunately, in Turgenev's subsequent correspondence—though perhaps there are still unpublished letters in private collections—he only mentions Musorgsky one more time. Thus, in October 1874 he wrote from Paris to a Russian friend: "How are the Petrovs doing? Please do give them my regards. Have you seen Musorgsky?" 
Judging from all the correspondence and memoirs that are available on Turgenev for the last years of his life, he did not comment either on Musorgsky's tragic death in hospital on 28 March 1881. This is perhaps because his attention at the time was occupied entirely by what he had been reading about the death and funeral of Dostoevsky in February, and the assassination of Alexander II on 13 March, so Musorgsky's death may well have escaped his notice. However, as Stasov had asserted on several occasions in Musorgsky's lifetime:
"Musorgsky is one of those persons to whom posterity erects monuments on city squares" 
—and it was precisely thanks to Stasov's untiring efforts that as early as 1885 a monument was raised in memory of the composer of Boris Godunov and Khovanschina.
Throughout his life Turgenev was fascinated by the phenomenon of the Russian religious schismatics (raskolniki)—or Old Believers, as they are generally known in English—and sectarians. Thus, in Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands (1851), which belongs to the cycle of A Huntsman's Sketches, Turgenev portrayed the remarkable figure of Kasyan, a begun (literally, "runner" or "fugitive"), that is a member of one the most important Russian sects, who is full of love for Nature and flees the authorities all the time. Turgenev also read such works by the historian Afanasy Schapov (1831-76) as The Russian Schism and the Old Believers (1859) and Zemstvo and Schism (1862), which are known to have given the London-based political exiles Aleksandr Herzen (1812-70) and Nikolai Ogaryov (1813-77) the idea of spreading revolutionary propaganda among the Old Believer and sectarian communities in the Russian provinces and rural areas .
Now, Turgenev, like his mentor, the literary critic Vissarion Belinsky (1811-48), was convinced of the value of the Petrine reforms, that is the policies adopted by Peter the Great (r. 1689-1725) in order to modernize Russia, which had included curtailing the reactionary Old Believers' influence. Consequently, he did not share Herzen's notion that these supposedly freedom-loving and anti-authoritarian schismatics could now serve as a force for progress if Alexander II were to let them participate in the implementation of the reforms of the 1860s. As he observed in a letter to one of Herzen's associates in October 1862:
"My main point of disagreement with Ogaryov and Herzen—as well as with Bakunin—lies precisely in the fact that they effectively despise the educated class in Russia and presuppose revolutionary or reformational elements in the people, whereas in reality it is quite the contrary: Revolution in the true and vital sense of the word exists only in the small educated class—and this is enough for it to triumph, if only we do not destroy ourselves beforehand" 
Early on in his literary career Turgenev had portrayed figures from the Old Believer and sectarian communities with clear sympathy. Thus, apart from the above-mentioned Kasyan, there is also the noble figure of Akim in the short story The Inn (1855). After his ideological quarrel with the stubborn Herzen during the summer of 1862, however, he soon started to point to the negative aspects of the Russian schism—to the ignorance and tyrannical instincts which it had fostered in these various sectarian communities. This is evident from the portrayal of the 'holy fool' in A Strange Story (1870) and the imperious Evlampya in the remarkable longer story A King Lear of the Steppes (1870). Towards the end of 1867, after a reconciliation of sorts had been achieved with Herzen, he would write ironically to his old friend:
"Of all the European nations, it is precisely the Russians who are least in need of freedom. A Russian person, left to his own devices will unavoidably develop into an Old Believer—that's where his nature drives him to" 
Even so, despite his increasingly negative opinion of the implications of the Russian schism, Turgenev all his life considered it to be "one of the most important factors in the Russian people's way of life", as Yuri Lyovin argued in his very interesting article about Turgenev's unrealized plan to write a historical novel about one of the leaders of the Old Believers in the seventeenth century—namely, the priest Nikita Dobrynin, whom his enemies gave the nickname "Pustosvyat" (i.e. "false saint") . Nikita Pustosvyat took part in the revolt of the Palace Guard, or streltsy, in Moscow on 5 July 1682, and after the suppression of this revolt by the Tsarevna Sophia, who was acting as regent for her brother Peter I, then aged ten, he was executed. Turgenev shared his plans with the French poet Prosper Merimée (1803-70), who was very interested in Russian culture and history, and who encouraged Turgenev to write this novel. Unfortunately, only the letters of Merimée to Turgenev have survived, but from various remarks made by Merimée in his letters one can deduce some of Turgenev's ideas for this novel which he never got round to writing. Thus, in April 1868, Merimée wrote to his Russian colleague:
"You are quite right: the Old Believers of the 17th century really were revolutionaries" 
It is very likely that Turgenev was intending to portray the chaos resulting from the 'revolutionary' popular insurrection sparked by the religious fanatic Nikita Pustosvyat. He also wanted to include "some scenes showing the upbringing of young Peter—the future tsar and eradicator of the Old Believer disturbances" .
In view of Turgenev's great interest in this critical period in Russian history—when Russia was on the brink of the Petrine reforms, with the various forces (the streltsy, the Old Believers, and the ancient boyar clans) that would later oppose these already manifesting themselves in the disturbances of the 1680s—it is evident that he must have been fascinated by the idea of such an opera as Khovanschina. For in this work Musorgsky sought to capture the spirit of those final decades of the seventeenth century which preceded the reign of Peter the Great, and above all to portray the tragic fate of such adherents of ancient customs as the Old Believers, many of whom preferred to burn themselves alive and die as martyrs rather than to hand over their icons and relics to the authorities. Thus, Musorgsky intended his unfinished opera to end with the self-immolation of the Old Believer community headed by Dosifei. The latter was based by Musorgsky on such historical figures as Nikita Pustosvyat, the hero of Turgenev's unrealized novel, and the famous Archpriest Avvakum, who was burnt at the stake in 1682 by order of the government. Both through his music and the distinct manner of speaking, full of Biblical archaisms, with which he characterised Dosifei, Musorgsky was able to endow this figure with an aura of such spiritual nobility that all the other characters in the opera cannot avoid submitting to his authority—albeit only temporarily—as, for example, in the scene at the end of Act I when Dosifei saves the young Lutheran girl Emma from the clutches of the Khovansky princes.
For his work on this opera Musorgsky studied the songs and writings of the Old Believer communities, including the well-known Life of Archpriest Avvakum, Written by Himself (1672-73). Significantly, Turgenev always professed great admiration for this work, in particular for the freshness of its language. In 1879, when he had long since abandoned his plans for a historical novel on that period, he observed in a letter from Paris to a Russian lady who was an amateur writer:
"For a historical novel or tale there is no better way of finding suitable material than by having a look at our provincial types. What a wealth of such types there is in the provinces! For the depths of our country haven't changed at all since the times of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich [r. 1645-1676]. If you were able to live for a while in some small town in central Russia, you would be surprised at the wealth of material you'd find there! The people and their customs over there are exactly the same as in the 17th century! Apart from that, you also ought to read the story of Frol Skobeyev, and you must try to get hold of The Life of Avvakum" 
Another aspect which Khovanschina has in common with Turgenev's interests as a writer and observer of Russian life is the fact that Musorgsky intended that both Dosifei and his spiritual daughter, Marfa, should come from aristocratic families. In a letter to Stasov in 1873 he explained that this was because he wanted "to show a sign of those times—of how whole noble families fled and sought refuge amongst the people" . Something quite similar attracted Turgenev's attention in the 1870s, when he was writing his last novel Virgin Soil (1877)—namely, the "going to the people" movement undertaken by young men and women from gentry families who decided to break with their privileged background and settled in villages to live and work among the peasants. In one of his last stories, A Desperate Character (1882), Turgenev also addressed the causes of this movement—albeit indirectly, because the story is set in an earlier period. The story's hero, Misha Poltev, is a nobleman's son who eventually joins a group of beggars wandering around the provinces of Russia. As he explains to his uncle: "It is only with beggars, with God's people that one can live in this world... I just cannot stand it any longer in your accursed manor-house! I am disgusted, ashamed to live in such comfort!"
All this suggests that if Turgenev had stayed in touch with Musorgsky after their meeting in Saint Petersburg in June 1874, he would have continued to follow the composer's creative plans with great interest and sympathy. The encouragement of so generous a person as Turgenev might even have helped Musorgsky to overcome his depressions and complete Khovanschina.
Dmitrii Shostakovich (1906-75), in particular, spoke of the affinity between these two exceptional artists. See the excellent study by Abram Gozenpud: Dostoevskii i muzykal'no-teatral'noe iskusstvo. Issledovanie (Leningrad, 1981), p. 172-76 [back]
If one compares this scene in the opera with the corresponding one in Pushkin's play, one can clearly see that Musorgsky turned Shuisky into a much crueller figure [back]
Lev Tolstoi's eldest son Sergei recalled the following observation which Turgenev made about Dostoevsky during his last visit to Yasnaya Polyana in the summer of 1881: "Do you know what an inverted commonplace is? When someone is in love his heart starts thumping; when he is angry his face turns crimson etc. Those are all commonplaces. In Dostoevsky's works, however, everything is done the other way round. For example, let us say someone encounters a lion. What does he do? He will, of course, grow pale and try to run away or hide. In any simple story—say, by Jules Verne—that's what you'll find being said. But Dostoevsky will say the opposite: that person's face turns crimson and he doesn't move from the spot. There's an inverted commonplace for you. It's a cheap way of passing for an original writer. And then with Dostoevsky you'll find that on every other page his heroes are in a state of delirium, frenzy, and fever. I mean, that just doesn't happen in real life". See: S. L. Tolstoi, Ocherki bylogo (Moscow, 1956), p. 316 [back]
See: V. G. Fridliand and S. M. Petrov (eds), I. S. Turgenev v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, 2 vols (Moscow, 1983), ii, p. 99-100 [back]
Letter to Pauline Viardot, 5/17-6/18 March 1867. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, vi, p. 172. Original text in French: "Ce soir je suis allé à un grand concert de la musique d'avenir russe, car il y en a aussi. Mais c'est absolutement pitoyable, vide d'idées, d'originalité. Ce n'est qu'une mauvaise copie de ce qui se fait en Allemagne" [back]
Cf. his letter to Pauline Viardot from Spasskoe on 20 June/2 July 1868: "Wagner is one of the founders of the school of groaning, and that accounts for the force and penetration of his effects". See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, vii, p. 170-71. Original text in French: "Wagner est un des fondateurs de l'école du gémissement, de là vient la force et la pénétration de ses effets". For further details on Turgenev's attitude to Wagner, see the section on Taneyev [back]
Letter from Musorgsky to Balakirev, 10/22 June 1863. See: M. P. Musorgskii, Literaturnoe nasledie, 2 vols (Moscow, 1971-72), i, p. 68. "Wagnerian howlings in the violins" is probably a reference to the famous Lohengrin prelude. In this letter Musorgsky also argued that Serov had bungled the excellent dramatic opportunity provided by the scene of Holofernes's hallucination. A few years later, in Boris Godunov, Musorgsky would create a hallucination scene of terrifying intensity. For an interesting discussion of this and other responses to Serov's Judith, see: Richard Taruskin, Opera and Drama in Russia. As Preached and Practiced in the 1860s (Rochester, NY, 1993), ch. 2 [back]
In 1948, following the example of Musorgsky, his favourite composer, Shostakovich would secretly write his own Anti-Formalist Peep-Show, poking fun at all those in the Soviet musical establishment who had condemned his music for its alleged "formalism" [back]
Letter to Pavel Annenkov, 19/31 December 1870. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, viii, p. 321 [back]
From Turgenev's article 'De la littérature russe contemporaine', which appeared anonymously in the Parisian journal Illustration in July 1845, and which, having been convincingly attributed to Turgenev, was included in the second Academy edition of his works. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 30 vols (Moscow / Leningrad, 1978-), Sochineniia, xii, p. 507. Original text in French: "Le succès de ce livre [Soirées de Dikanka] fut immense. Tout le monde admira la vigueur et le naturel de son coloris, sa riche veine comique, sa finesse d'observation, son originalité sincère. [...] et Gogol est aujourd'hui, de toute la Russie, l'écrivain le plus populaire [...] Avec une connaissance approfondie du pays et du peuple qu'il peint, avec un singulier talent de conteur, il possède une verve comique inextinguible, ce qui manquait à Pouchkine [...] un certain humour particulier à lui seul, et marqué de cette empreinte de tristesse profonde qu'on trouvera toujours au fond d'un cœur slave" [back]
Letter from Musorgsky to Aleksei Golenischev-Kutuzov, 10/22 November 1877. See: M. P. Musorgskii, Literaturnoe nasledie, 2 vols (Moscow, 1971-72), i, p. 235 [back]
The narrator, Grinev, makes this observation in Chapter 13 of Pushkin's novel after describing briefly the upheavals caused by the Pugachev Revolt across Russia. Turgenev cited these words in a conversation with the journalist Nikolai Scherban in Paris in 1862. See: V. G. Fridliand and S. M. Petrov (eds), I. S. Turgenev v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, 2 vols (Moscow, 1983), ii, p. 34. In his short story Phantoms (1863) Turgenev would similarly evoke a scene of chaos and violence during Stenka Razin's rebellion of 1670-71 [back]
Letter to Aleksandr Herzen, 26 September/8 October 1862. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, v, p. 51 [back]
Letter to Mariya Zubova, 6/18 March 1862. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, xiii/2, p. 202 [back]
Letter from Musorgsky to Lyudmila Shestakova, 30 July/11 August 1868. Ibid., p. 100 [back]
Letter from Musorgsky to Ilya Repin, 13/25 June 1873. Ibid., p. 148 [back]
From Turgenev's review of a collection of stories by Vladimir Dahl (1801-72), who is more famous for his four-volume Reasoned Dictionary of the Living Great-Russian Language (1864-68). See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Sochineniia, i, p. 298-99 [back]
See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Sochineniia, xv, p. 72. Turgenev gave his Pushkin speech on 7/19 June 1880, the day before Dostoevsky delivered his more famous tribute to the poet [back]
See Musorgsky's letter to Lyudmila Shestakova of 30 July/11 August 1868, in: M. P. Musorgskii, Literaturnoe nasledie, 2 vols (Moscow, 1971-72), i, p. 100 [back]
Letter to Mariya Milyutina, 22 February/6 March 1875. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, xi, p. 31 [back]
See Musorgsky's letter to Lyudmila Shestakova of 29 February/12 March 1876, in: M. P. Musorgskii, Literaturnoe nasledie, 2 vols (Moscow, 1971-72), i, p. 214 [back]
See Herman Laroche's review in: Stuart Campbell (ed.), Russians on Russian music, 1830-1880 (Cambridge 1994), p. 227. The only compositions of Musorgsky's to have been published at that point were a couple of piano pieces, some songs, and the above-mentioned choral work The Destruction of Sennacherib [back]
See: V. G. Fridliand and S. M. Petrov (eds), I. S. Turgenev v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, 2 vols (Moscow, 1983), ii, p. 106 [back]
See the article by Nikolai Solovyov (29 Jan. 1874 issue of Birzhevye vedomosti), as well as the other reviews of Boris Godunov, compiled by Aleksandra Orlova in her chronology of Musorgsky's life and works: A. Orlova, Trudy i dni M. P. Musorgskogo. Letopis' zhizni i tvorchestva (Moscow, 1963), p. 336 [back]
Letter to Pauline Viardot, 7/19 May—9/21 May 1874. See: H. Granjard and A. Zviguilsky (eds), Lettres inédites de Tourguénev à Pauline Viardot et à sa famille (Lausanne, 1972), p. 195. This letter has been incorporated into the second Academy edition of Turgenev's Complete Works: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 30 vols (Moscow, 1978-), Pis'ma, xiii (2002), p. 72. In the original French: "on a fermé l'opéra russe — et je n'aurai pas le plaisir d'entendre ces délicieuses cacophonies" [back]
Letter to Pauline Viardot, 21-22 May/2-3 June 1874. See: A. Zviguilsky (ed.), Ivan Tourguénev. Nouvelle correspondance inédite, 2 vols (Paris, 1971), i, p. 211-12. This letter has been incorporated into the second Academy edition of Turgenev's Complete Works: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 30 vols (Moscow, 1978-), Pis'ma, xiii (2002), p. 84-86. In the original French: "J'ai dîné aujourd'hui chez le vieux Petroff, auquel j'ai porté votre romance et qui en est enchanté [...] Pour en revenir à Petroff, il vous adore toujours, comme par le passé. — Il y a là un buste de vous, courroné de lauriers, encore assez ressemblant. J'ai vu aussi sa femme (le contralto) qui a 60 ans [...] Eh bien! après dîner elle a chanté deux romances assez bizarres, mais touchantes de Mr Moussorgski (l'auteur de Boris Godunoff — qui était présent) avec une voix encore adorable, d'un timbre jeune, expressif, charmant! — Je suis resté tout béant, et j'ai été attendri — jusqu'aux larmes, je vous assure. Ce Мoussorgski nous a joué — et on ne peut pas dire chanté — râlé — quelques fragments de son opéra et d'un autre qu'il est en train de composer, et cela m'a paru caractéristique, intéressant, ma parole d'honneur! Le vieux Petroff a chanté sa partie de vieux moine ivre et gouailleur (il se nomme Varlam, regardez la traduction de Pouchkine, faite par Viardot) — parfaitement bien. Je commence à croire qu'il y a de l'avenir dans tout ceci. — Мoussorgski a un faux air de Glinka; seulement il a le nez complètement rouge (malheureusement, c'est un ivrogne), des yeux pâles, mais beaux et des petites lèvres pincées dans un gros visage aux joues pendantes. — Il m'a plu, il est très naturel et sans phrases. Il nous a joué l'introduction de son second opéra. C'est un peu wagnérien, mais beau et pénétrant. — Allons, allons, messieurs les Russes!!" The collection Poèmes dramatiques d'Alexandre Pouchkine. Traduits du Russe par Ivan Tourguéneff et Louis Viardot (Paris, 1862) included a prose translation of Pushkin's historical play Boris Godunov. The main translation work had been done by Turgenev, but Pauline's husband, the art historian Louis Viardot (1800-83), who had no knowledge of Russian, had made stylistic corrections to the French text. Turgenev modestly downplays his contribution in this letter [back]
A. Gozenpud, I. S. Turgenev. Issledovanie (Saint Petersburg, 1994), p. 92 [back]
Quoted in: E. M. Gordeeva, Kompozitory "Moguchei kuchki" (Moscow, 1985), p. 138 [back]
Letter to Aleksandr Toporov, 28 September/10 October 1874. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, x, p. 307. Aleksandr Toporov (1831-87), a dentist and a close friend of Turgenev's who carried out a number of errands for him in Saint Petersburg during the 1870s and early 1880s, was acquainted with Мusorgsky. Abram Gozenpud suggests that it was he who arranged for Turgenev to meet the composer at Petrov's house on 3 June 1874 [back]
Quoted in: E. M. Gordeeva, Kompozitory "Moguchei kuchki" (Moscow, 1985), p. 366 [back]
See: N. L. Brodsky, I. S. Turgenev i russkie sektanty (Moscow, 1922) [back]
Letter to Vladimir Luginin, 26 September/8 October 1862. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, v, p. 49 [back]
Letter to Aleksandr Herzen, 13/25 December 1867. Ibid., vii, p. 14 [back]
See: Iu. D. Levin, 'Neosushchestvlennyi istoricheskii roman Turgeneva', in: M. P. Alekseev (ed.), I. S. Turgenev (1818-1883-1958). Stat'i i materialy (Oryol, 1960), p. 96-131 [back]
Letter from Merimée to Turgenev, 24 April 1868. Quoted by Iu. D. Levin, op. cit., p. 103, from: Maurice Parturier, Une amitié littéraire: Prosper Mérimée et Ivan Tourguéniev (Paris, 1952), p. 182. In the original French: "Vous avez dit le vrai mot, les Raskolniks du 17-ème siècle étaient des révolutionnaires". The letters which Turgenev wrote to his French colleague and friend were unfortunately lost in the fire that destroyed part of Merimée's archive in 1871 [back]
See: Iu. D. Levin, 'Neosushchestvlennyi istoricheskii roman Turgeneva', in: M. P. Alekseev (ed.), I. S. Turgenev (1818-1883-1958). Stat'i i materialy (Oryol, 1960), p. 96-131 (111) [back]
Letter to Princess Elizaveta Lvova, 27 November/9 December 1879. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, xii/2, p. 185-86 [back]