TCHAIKOVSKY by John Warrack


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Tchaikovsky's life and his best known music were tones apart. The composer of the rich and lyrical ballets and fantasies -- as a recent celluloid romance about his otherworldly relationship with Nadezda Von Meck demonstrated -- was a melancholy and impotent lover who admitted his own sense of futility, despite his worldwide fame in the last and ""crowning work of his career,"" the Pathetique (Sixth) Symphony. Isolated as a person, as a musician in Czarist Russia, as a Russian nationalist in liberal Europe, ""he turned to composition for consolation and delight and gradually as he grew in maturity, for the release into music of his frustrated personality."" Not a child prodigy, Tchaikovsky never mastered the symphonic form; he wrote opera in order to reach a mass audience bat only two out of ten (Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades) were ever popular; he hated program music but could not compose without a subject. Influenced by European masters such as Mendelssohn, Berlioz and Mozart, he was in contact with the Petersburg Five, but distant from these volkists because of his reluctance to see the folksong as an expression of the Russian soul. All this one gets in other popular studies of the composer, and Warrack extends the man no further. Tchaikovsky still awaits a definitive biographer.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Scribners