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||Piano Sonata four hands
||Sonate pur piano a quatre mains
- I. Allegro assai (completed on 8 December 1860)
- II. Scherzo (incomplete)
|Year/Date of CompositionY/D of Comp.
|Composer Time PeriodComp. Period
When Mussorgsky became a composition student of Mily Balakirev in December 1857, the 18-year-old was given a pair of assignments on the spot: write a scherzo and sonata for solo piano. While Mussorgsky was eventually able to piece together with Balakirev's help a Scherzo in C sharp minor, both his attempts at sonata apparently failed: neither the E flat major or the F sharp minor sonatas exist except as quotations of the main themes of the opening movements in letters to Balakirev. And given Mussorgsky's self-confessed "Russian laziness" coupled with his incipient alcoholism and his attacks of what he called "mysticism," it is doubtful that much more of the works ever existed beyond those quotations.
Thus is it likely that the only actual sonata-allegro form movement Mussorgsky ever actually composed was the Allegro assai from his Sonata for piano, 4 hands from 1860. In his biography of the composer, M.D. Calvocoressi asserts that, "though obviously written only as an exercise, (the Allegro) is interesting as the only extant composition of Mussorgsky's in sonata form, indeed his only large-scale essay in absolute instrument music," and he closes with the damning line "for which it conclusively demonstrated his inaptitude." Calvocoressi does not exaggerate: Mussorgsky's ideas are not capable of development and his sonata does not proceed through development but by uncertain fits and starts.
Although there were supposedly three additional movements for the Sonata for Two Pianos, only a scherzo was apparently ever put on paper and it is no more than a transcription of his Scherzo in C sharp minor down a semi-tone to C minor and expanded slightly for two players at a single keyboard. ~ All Music Guide