TCHAIKOVSKY by Alexander Poznansky


The Quest for the Inner Man
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 Instead of Tchaikovsky's music, Russian ÇmigrÇ Poznansky, a librarian at Yale, here emphasizes ``the man who wrote the music.'' Without the music, though, Tchaikovsky's life seems to have little point, and the man himself appears to be thoroughly repulsive, arrogant, exploitative, and disloyal, a self-centered pederast, emotionally and morally crippled. Born into a family ``saturated with eroticism,'' both Tchaikovsky and his brother were homosexual from childhood, with incest being, according to Poznansky, ``not inconceivable,'' perhaps ``indisputable.'' As Tchaikovsky succeeded as a musician, he traveled the capitals of Europe, entering into sexual alliances with princes, street urchins, servants, other musicians, even his own nephew, over whom he obsessed for much of his life, preferring always young men, preferably below the age of 15. Tchaikovsky used women, too, marrying a compliant young girl, abandoning her after two weeks, and later blaming her for causing him moral, psychological, even ``hemorrhoidal'' pain when she refused to divorce him. In another instance, he allowed the widowed Mrs. von Meck to support him for 13 years on the condition that she never attempt to see him. At last, her fortune and health declining, she sent him a large and final sum in advance--whereupon he accused her of ``betraying'' him, of being ``perfidious'' and ``cruel.'' In spite of the sexual license of the upper class, homosexuality was illegal and several of Tchaikovsky's young friends committed suicide; according to Poznansky, the composer did not, as legend has it, but died of cholera. Poznansky concludes, having offered no evidence to support it, that Tchaikovsky's life ``is a generous achievement worth telling for its own sake.'' The evidence he does offer supports an interpretation of the composer as a classic narcissist, a concept relevant to his talent and his music. But, while Poznansky claims to be writing ``historical psychology,'' he seems to show little interest in or knowledge of psychology, nor does he get past the charming facade and effusive letters in his pursuit of what he calls the ``inner man.'' (Sixty-four photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 1991
ISBN: 0-02-871885-2
Page count: 656pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1991