"UNBRIDLED EMOTION" would perhaps best describe the
music of Tchaikovsky. His deep-sensitivity saturated his music
producing lush melodies that have enamored listeners for over
Yet Tchaikovsky's personal life was in turmoil from the very
beginning. As a youth, Tchaikovsky faced the hardship of losing
his mother at age 14 and was forced to deal with the cold atmosphere
of a military boarding school. As such, young Peter shied away from the
harsh and cold world and found solace in music. It was upon
hearing Mozart's Don Giovanni that Tchaikovsky decided
to dedicate his life to music.
Abandoning his civil service position, Tchaikovsky entered the
St. Petersburg Conservatory to study under Anton Rubinstein.
Fortunately Tchaikovsky's father, who although disapproved of
Peter's decision for a musical career, didn't interfere with
his son's wishes. As a student, Tchaikovsky wrote The Storm 1864
and later in 1868, under the direction of Mily Balakirev, he
composed Fatum. This work pleased Tchaikovsky
but not Balakirev- the leader of the "Mighty Five."
His mentor bluntly criticized the work for its lack of continuity and
natural flow and pointed to Franz Liszt's Les Préludes as
a successful model. Respecting Balakirev's judgment, Tchaikovsky discarded
the work. The famous tone poem Romeo & Juliet would follow
within a year's time, and once again, under the nurturing counsel of Mily Balakirev.
On a deeper and more personal level, Tchaikovsky's neuroses,
which in part stemmed from his homosexuality, often lead him
to be depressed and insecure in the presence of people. Perhaps to allay rumors of his homosexuality, Tchaikovsky married a young student in 1877. It naturally proved
disastrous. Whether it was to appease his overly infatuated
wife or conceal his secret all that Tchaikovsky was left with
after nine short weeks of marriage was a suicide attempt and
As fate would have it, another woman, Nadejda von Meck, would
enter his life, but this time exclusively as a pen pal. Her
wish was to subsidize him without ever meeting. A better arrangement
couldn't be made for one such as Tchaikovsky, as their mysterious
relationship lasted for fourteen years. This offered
Tchaikovsky some piece of mind, as his brother Modest recalled years
later,"The Tchaikovsky of 1885 seemed a new man compared
with the nervous and misanthropic Tchaikovsky of 1878."
Tchaikovsky's music was marked by a sensuously rhythmic pulse
and an innate melodic flow that enabled him to create some
of the world's greatest ballet music; music that shows a mixture
of playful classicism and romantic verve. That he should incorporate
such melodies into his symphonies prompted some critics to attack.
Tchaikovsky's quick defense was simple, ballet music was by
no means inferior to any other form of music. This inevitably
would be affirmed by the millions of people who still rally
behind his symphonies in praise, however, haughty critics still deride Tchaikovsky of his just rewards.
Tchaikovsky's inner conflicts perhaps give a clue to his music,
for he openly adored the style and grace of Mozart, yet gravitated
to the revolutionary innovations of Franz Liszt
and the Romantics. Although he could escape and find peace and
consolation in Mozart, his inner turmoil and the tempestuous
times in which he lived forced him to ingest and release stirringly
Romantic creations. With constant input by Balakirev and the
influence of the avant-garde, Tchaikovsky would release more
works that reflected his true and inescapable reality than his escapist wishes,
the latter attempted in his Mozartiana. With works like;
Romeo & Juliet, Fatum, Manfred, Hamlet, or the first
Piano concerto the influence of Franz Liszt and the modernists
is clearly evident.
He was quite bewildered yet motivated by the works of Richard Wagner, as he stated after seeing The Ring, "I
came away in doubt about the validity of Wagner's view of opera;
I came away exhausted, but at the same time wishing to continue
my study of this music."
although the Dionysian aspects of Romanticism intimidated him,
Tchaikovsky felt somehow captivated and drawn in by its dynamic and
Having written a broad spectrum of works- ranging from piano solo pieces
& chamber works to concertos, symphonies, and operas -Tchaikovsky
has undoubtedly made his mark as one of the greatest masters
of the late Romantic era.
Concerto No.1 Violin Concerto/Capriccio
Italien/Francesca da Rimini etc. (Horacio
Gutierrez, piano/ Andre Previn-cond./Seiji Ozawa-cond./others)
(2 CD's) (Seraphim,EMI)
Piano concerto is beautifully played by Horacio and Andre
in a solid performance of great virtuosity and feeling. Many
recordings of this popular piece make choosing a favorite
a difficult task, as Van Cliburn and others come to mind. Yet
these 2 CD's offer a nice selection of works at a very reasonable
(Concertgebouw Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly) (London)
some prodding by Balakirev, Tchaikovsky took up Byron's subject
of Manfred to compose a masterpiece in sound. This recording
is full-bodied and nicely paced, as each movement carries significance
to the underlying theme of Manfred's psychological torments
and adventures. Something Tchaikovsky could easily identify
with. Here is a work that clearly dispels the haughty critics who said, and some still say, Tchaikovsky could only write trite ballet music. A powerful and moving work.
5 / Hamlet (Orchestre
symphonique de Montreal/Charles Dutoit-cond.) (London)
fifth symphony develops a recurring fate theme that somberly
echoes throughout the symphony. A reprieve in the second
movement summons up a tender love melody that doesn't exactly
find peace, as it is interrupted twice by fate. The symphony
does however end triumphantly, though somewhat dubious. Hamlet is a fine piece of music that depicts the moods and actions
of the play with good results. Although Franz Liszt's Hamlet is a superior work, and this work's predecessor and possible inspiration, it should be heard more in
the concert hall. A splendid CD.
Symphony Orchestra/James Levine-cond) (RCA)
piece delighted Tchaikovsky more than any other work. Oddly
enough, it was to be his last, for he died nine days after
it's premiere. The music is intensely moving and revolves
around the universal theme of LIFE and DEATH. A solid performance
by Levine and the Chicago Symphony.
Lake & Sleeping Beauty suites
(Philadelphia Orchestra/Riccardo Muti) (EMI)
those seeking only the suites or (carefully selected excerpts)
this recording offers both popular ballets each performed
& Juliet / Nutcracker Suite
(Cleveland Orchestra/ Lorin Maazel) (Telarc)
A great recording of two beloved favorites. A listening pleasure
to delight the whole
Midi Files on classicalarchives.com
Liszt Site The web's premiere resource on the Hungarian
pianist/composer Franz Liszt.
Everything Tchaikovsky - on Classical TV
ClassicalConnect.com a virtual concert hall and the biggest searchable collection of classical music on the Internet
A resource provided by DV Books
& text © Rich DiSilvio