Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was born on March 21, 1839, in his ancestral estate of Karevo, Pskov province, Russia. He was the 30th generation from Rurik the Great, the first King of ancient Kiev Rus. Mussorgsky's family were wealthy landowners and belonged to Russian landed gentry. Young Mussorgsky studied piano from the age of six under the tutelage of his mother, who herself was a trained pianist. At the age of nine he was able to perform pieces by Franz Liszt and a piano concerto by John Field in public. At ten he began his studies in St. Petersburg's elite Peterschule (St. Peter's School), where his piano teacher was virtuoso Anton Herke. In 1852, at the age of 12, Mussorgsky published a piano piece titled "Porte-enseigne Polka". Around that time he was described by Alexander Borodin as an "elegant piano-playing dilettante" at a private party. Mussorgsky continued his music studies while attending the Cadet School of the Imperial Guards. He graduated from the school in 1856 and was posted to the Imperial Guards Regiment in St. Petersburg.
He joined the Russian army where he met the piano player and composer 'Balakirev' who taught him composition. As he could not finish his studies in music, Moussorgsky did not know all stylistic means of composition perfectly and thus had to follow his instinct in his works becoming the pathmaker of the musical impressionism as well as expressionism: He was the first to compose realistic pictures, e.g. "Pictures at an Exhibition". Having no success during his lifetime Moussorgsky spent all of his fortune ending up a poor man addicted to alcohol.