Review Summary: Mussorgsky's final tear.
Une Larme is recognised by many to be one of Mussorgsky’s less stimulating pieces of piano music. Rather short, uncertain and fairly open-ended, the piece is still worthy of mention in his repertoire, which to reiterate, contains works like Pictures at an Exhibition
. By comparison, the singular little piece of salon-music is quite uninteresting, mainly to music theorists and alike. It’s a work that any other composer at the time could have written, even one that perhaps lacked the structured professionalism that Mussorgsky once owned at heart. Part of this stems from the fact that Mussorgsky’s demise left his compositional skills to rot away as quickly as his liver did through alcoholism. But, as the work was composed during the uneven year before his death, it gives a very brief glimpse into the mind of the man’s unstable mentality. Naturally, what more could possibly be derived from a drunken Russian, defiant to remove himself from the white spirit? A lot it seems.
It begins promisingly, almost as if he was willing somewhere to show a sign of optimistism, but quickly and unknowingly moves into the sad theme at a very gentle pace. The theme coils itself in and out of a conventional chordal progression in the left hand, but remains fairly flat and ill-defined as to direction of any sorts. The mood created is quite humbling but at the same time extremely saddening to the point where compassion almost takes upon a force of its own. And even despite the gentle move into the major resembles a moment of resolution; Mussorgsky reintroduces melancholy as easily as he once upon a time forgot it even existed. He again tries to relieve this feeling within the final closing chords, however they are somewhat clouded by the questions still lurking.
These questions mark the importance of this work, for him, and for those looking back. The stark resemblance between the piece and the man’s situation is uncanny for any other work of his, but much alike that of what Beethoven once felt in works such as his Große Fuge
. It confirms the power that musical portraiture, even if it is undesigned and unintentional, and at the same time offers a unique and mostly satisfying listening experience.