Tchaikovsky and His Contemporaries: A Centennial Symposium

Tchaikovsky and His Contemporaries: A Centennial Symposium

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Tchaikovsky and His Contemporaries: A Centennial Symposium

Tchaikovsky and His Contemporaries: A Centennial Symposium

Read FREE!

Synopsis

Commemorating the centenary of Tchaikovsky's death, these essays reassess the life and work of the composer from a variety of perspectives, ranging from the musicological and biographical to broader ones addressing his place in the development of the arts in Europe and America. As they make clear, there is much about Tchailkovsky's achievement that has been taken for granted, and the essays included in this collection represent as much acts of reevaluation as of celebration.

Excerpt

This extraordinary subtlety of his--or what some then termed his refined nature, an ability to pass through without injuring others, of expressing objections without insult--won over a great many people.

--Nina Berberova Tchaikovsky: The Story of a Solitary Life

In 1921 Igor Stravinsky addressed an open letter through the London Times to the choreographer Sergei Diaghilev in regard to the latter's staging of Tchaikovsky's ballet Sleeping Beauty. The musically iconoclastic Stravinsky was unstinting in his praise of the often-disparaged Tchaikovsky, calling him "the greatest of any Russian musician" and adding that "the fact is that he was the creator of melody, which is an extremely rare and precious gift." Years later, in one of his interviews with Robert Craft, he underscores "the real freshness" of Tchaikovsky's talent and his "instrumental inventiveness." "Like Pushkin in poetry," Stravinsky asserted, Tchaikovsky brought about "that miraculous unity, thanks to which Russian art was raised to the same level as the highest achievements of art in Europe, while at the same time preserving its cultural identity."

Nonetheless, not all expatriate Russians were (to borrow Nina Berberova's turn of phrase) won over by Tchaikovsky. In stark contrast to Stravinsky's enthusiastic response to Tchaikovsky's achievement, the Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov--lapsing into an autobiographical moment in his aptly titled collection of essays Strong Opinions--recalls his boredom and discomfort as a "curly-headed boy in a velvet box" listening to the "cloying banalities" of the opera Eugene Onegin, an experience unredeemed by its "hideous and insulting" libretto. In the same intemperate vein, after reading a piece by his friend Edmund Wilson on the composer, Nabokov wrote "your article on Tchaikovsky was fine. But you should have given him and his brother a kick in the pants for the librettos and operas. A good flying kick."

Tchaikovsky has always been a controversial figure, often praised and faulted for exactly the same qualities. The lush melodiousness of his music is . . .

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