To My Best Friend: Correspondence between Tchaikovsky and Nadezhda von Meck, 1876-1878

To My Best Friend: Correspondence between Tchaikovsky and Nadezhda von Meck, 1876-1878

To My Best Friend: Correspondence between Tchaikovsky and Nadezhda von Meck, 1876-1878

To My Best Friend: Correspondence between Tchaikovsky and Nadezhda von Meck, 1876-1878

Synopsis

Tchaikovsky dedicated his original and emotionally vibrant Fourth Symphony to his newly found correspondent Nadezhda von Meck. This correspondence started at the end of 1876, when Tchaikovsky was in need of funds. On the recommendation of Nikoli Rubinstein, Director of the Moscow Conservatoire where Tchaikovsky was a professor, Nadezhda before the other, Nadezhda von Meck sincerely and increasingly gushingly, Tchaikovsky less sincerely to begin with, but much more so before the elapse of many months. Each was determined never to meet the other in the flesh for fear of destroying their very special relationship. The years covered by the present book are by far the most important in the correspondence. They cover the period of Tchaikovsky's tempestuously abortive marriage, about which he is surprisingly candid; in addition to the Fourth Symphony, the compositions of the period include his finest and most sensitive opera, Eugene Onegin, and the ever popular Violin Concerto, as well as numerous other smaller works. Their views on many musical, literary, philosophical, and other matters are stated frankly and, though they are often in accord, they are not afraid to agree to differ either. Not only giving a unique insight into Tchaikovsky the composer, these letters are perhaps as fascinating as any ever printed. Many are published in English for the first time. The translations, by a native-born Russian who lived the latter part of her life in England, and edited by a music scholar who reads Russian and a Slavist who is qualified in music, are as close to the letter and spirit of the original as it is possible to get. The correspondence will be of interest both to musicians and music lovers, and to all who are interested in the arts and culture of the nineteenth century.

Excerpt

At the end of 1876, when his correspondence with Nadezhda von Meck started, Tchaikovsky had reached a turning-point in his career. He was becoming dissatisfied with his post at the Moscow Conservatoire of Music, where he taught harmony and composition. His compositions included the naïve and charming First Symphony; the brilliant Second Symphony, based to a substantial extent on folksongs; and the Third Symphony, in which the outer movements, lacking the initial impetus of folk intonations, are weak. Other orchestral works included the Romeo and Juliet overture, dedicated to the leader of the Petersburg group of composers known as the 'mighty handful', Balakirev, and to a large extent inspired by him; the Symphonic Fantasia 'afterShakespeare The Tempest', based on a scenario prepared by the great critic, librarian, and art connoisseur Vladimir Stasov, who had given many ideas for compositions to the 'mighty handful'; and Francesca da Rimini, which had recently been completed and was to delight Balakirev and his group. The First Piano Concerto had had enormous success in the United States, and the opera The Oprichnik was proving to be successful on the stage, though Tchaikovsky himself was dissatisfied with it. The comic opera Vakula the Smith had won a competition and had just received its first performances. Songs, piano music, and many other less important pieces had been composed.

Tchaikovsky was thirty-six and unmarried. In the late 1860s he had toyed with the idea of marrying the visiting opera singer Désirée Artôt, but this came to nothing. By 1876 he had come to realize that the homosexual inclinations which had first become apparent during his boyhood while he was a boarder at the School of Jurisprudence were probably irreversible. Paradoxically, he wished to marry 'to stop the gossip', as he put it. He wanted a woman who would look after him and make no sexual demands on him, rather like the motherly figure whom his father had married in his old age; she ministered to the old man's needs and, simple soul though she was, the family very much liked her. (To his infinite grief, Tchaikovsky's mother had died of cholera when he was fourteen.)

In the same way as he was approaching an emotional climax in his life . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.