V. U. has not been identified.
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The talented composer and musician M[odest] P[etrovich] Musorgsky was endowed with innumerable qualities which made him such a special member in our society. In the early sixties, I was still young and I had recently finished a class for beginners. I liked to frequent Kumanina’s home, near the Kokushkin Bridge, where the musical world of Russian opera, the performers and their loyal audience, would so often meet in the Gumbins’1 apartment. I was pleased to be able to see the artists, not on the stage, but in this friendly company; I liked to listen to them while standing near them instead of hearing them across the orchestra pit. Needless to say, such a polished accompanist as Musorgsky was always a favorite guest with the singers; but he seldom limited himself to the humble role of accompanist. Not only did he give enormous pleasure to his audience with his skillful playing, but he could, when he wanted, make all those present laugh. One such comic concert is still vivid in my memory. Musorgsky was in a particularly good mood and had not left the piano all evening. What didn’t he play! It could be a well-known aria played with such a change in tempo and rhythm that to listen without laughing was impossible; or he could play a different piece with each hand: the left one “Lieber Augustin” and the right one Faust’s waltz. Later, there was a pot pourri of various gay polkas and waltzes, solemn hymns, funeral marches, organ music, and so on. And all the time either in the bass notes or in the treble the dashing sounds of Kamarinskaia2 were constantly to be heard, but always conforming to the mood of the piece into whose structure it intruded.
The vocal part of the concert was about to begin. At first, there was an imitation of the women in Italian opera, and, strange as it may seem, Musorgsky’s high falsetto rendering of Adio del pisati [sic] was reminiscent of the never-to-be-forgotten Bosio.3 Suddenly the soprano aria broke off, and completely unexpectedly Petrov’s bass resounded, singing his last aria from A Life for the Tsar4 in a very nasal tone of voice. On hearing it Osip Afanas’evich, who was playing préference5 in the adjoining room, stopped the game and came running into the hall. With a good-natured smile he said that he ought to teach a good lesson to the small boy who dared to mimic his elders. There was a lot of laughter. It seems that all this happened just yesterday, but already so many of the people are no longer with us.