Mussorgsky and the Mighty Handful
They were a fortifications engineer, a research chemist, a naval officer, a pen-pusher in a government office and a gentleman of leisure. They were also all composers – quite a handful, indeed a “Mighty Handful”, to give them the old-fashioned English version of their collective Russian sobriquet: moguchaya kuchka. They were artists with a mission, but they spent more time debating that mission than realizing it. They were, in the order given above, César Cui, Alexander Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Modest Musorgsky and Mily Balakirev, and the story of their triumphs and failures is told by Stephen Walsh with enjoyable panache.