Night on Bald Mountain, Rimsky-Korsakov Arrangement
Related Artists/CompaniesModeste Mussorgsky
About the Work
First composed in 1867, the work whose Russian title translates St. John's Eve on the Bare Mountain underwent two subsequent adaptations by the composerâ€”first as part of the opera-ballet Mlada, and finally as a sort of ill-fitting "dream-sequence" in his Gogol-based opera Sorochintsy Fair. After Mussorgsky's death in 1881, Rimsky-Korsakov took portions of all three versions of the St. John's music to create his orchestral tour de force.
"At first I could make nothing of Night on Bald Mountain," Rimsky wrote in his autobiography. "Mussorgsky had planned the piece originally in the 1860s (it was then called Midsummer's Eve), under the influence of Liszt's Totentanz, and then left it lying for a long time." After describing the other versions, Rimsky-Korsakov concludes that "none of these as a whole was suitable for publication and performance. Consequently I resolved to make a purely orchestral piece from Mussorgsky's material and did my utmost to keep all the best and most connected parts without change, and to put in as little as possible of my own." Rimsky-Korsakov's reconstruction was published in 1886.
Inspired partly by a Gogol tale, Mussorgsky's Bald Mountain depicts a Witches' Sabbath on a Ukrainian mountain-top. Rimsky described his version thus: "Subterranean sounds of unearthly voices. Appearance of the Spirits of Darkness, followed by that of the Chernobog [â€˜Black God']. Glorification of Chernobog and celebration of the Black Mass. Witches' Sabbath. At the height of the orgy, the bell of the little village church is heard from afar. The Spirits of Darkness are dispersed. Daybreak."