The extraordinary group of Russian composers who came together in St Petersburg in the 1860s - long known as 'The Mighty Handful', but, as the moguchaya kuchka, better translated as 'the great little heap' - gave rise to one of the most fascinating and colourful stories in all musical history.
Stephen Walsh, author of a major biography of their direct successor, Stravinsky, has written an absorbing account of Musorgsky and his circle - Borodin, Cui, Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov. With little or no musical education they created works of lasting significance - Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, Borodin's Prince Igor and Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade. Written with deep understanding and panache, The Kuchka, is highly engaging and a significant contribution to cultural history.
Stephen Walsh is a Professor of Music at Cardiff University, and the author of several books on music,
including Musorgsky and His Circle (Faber, 2013) which was
shortlisted for the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize in 2014. The first volume of his major biography of Stravinsky - Stravinsky: A Creative Spring - won the Royal Philharmonic Society prize in 2000. Volume Two - Stravinsky: The Second Exile - was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the ten best books of 2006.
He was deputy music critic of The Observer from 1966 to 1985. He now reviews for theartsdesk.com website and broadcasts regularly for BBC Radio 3.
'A fascinating story of rival ideological factions and vendettas ... Stephen Walsh has told this story superbly in a consistently gripping narrative ... Only someone with the deepest knowledge and understanding could write so lucidly, sympathetically and convincingly. I confidently predict that this wonderful book will be among the pick of the year.'
Classical Music Magazine
Stephen Walsh is as good a guide as you could want ... his writing sound, sharp-witted and musically insightful ... Brilliant.
Musorgsky and his Circle offers many original insights ... an illuminating study of the dark preoccupations and insecurities that beset the heart of Russian culture, then as now.
Wall Street Journal - Norman Lebrecht
A magisterial new study of one of the most melancholy chapters of musical history ... It constructs a richly detailed and absorbing saga of a remarkable cultural phenomenon.
Literary Review - Rupert Christiansen