Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain

Notes by TŌN violist Omar Shelly

Modest Mussorgsky was at the beginning of a line of Russian composers in the mid-1800s known as “The Five.” Both he and Rimsky-Korsakov wrote Russia’s first programmatic music, and Night on Bald Mountain is considered to be one of the first programmatic pieces to come out of Russia. This music has always really scared me. As a kid I remember seeing Fantasia and hearing this piece and being frightened by it. And that’s exactly what Mussorgsky wanted. One thing I’ll always remember is how the dawn comes at the end of the piece and clears everything out, makes everything okay, and puts it to bed. It’s always creeped me out, but nowadays I’m more frightened of it just because of the notes. There’s a lot going on for the strings, and technically, it’s all over the place. You’ll want to listen to the trombones—they absolutely lay down that fear factor.