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Mussorgsky: Night On Bald Mountain

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: beware the summer solstice!

As with much of Mussorgsky’s music, the history of “Night on Bald Mountain” is complicated by different versions of the same work. The program has remained consistent over time, depicting an assembly of ghouls and witches who celebrate a dark mass until dispelled by the ringing of the Matins bell. After his teacher rejected the original version in 1867, the persistent composer later worked the version we just heard into a dream sequence in one of his comic operas. The most well-known version, however, is the one edited and performed after Mussorgsky’s death by his friend Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov The original title refers to St. John’s Eve, otherwise known as “Ivan Kupala Eve,” a Russian folk holiday celebrated on the Summer Solstice. While the day itself is celebrated with ritual bathing and fire-jumping, in folklore the eve of the holiday often had more sinister associations.

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