Tchaikovsky Graham School of General Studies With his profound

Graham School of General Studies
With his profound melodic gift, Tchaikovsky entranced audience after audience and provided us with a
living soundtrack for 19th century Russia. This course will give Tchaikovsky his due as a Russian
nationalist and reveal how gracefully he navigated between the sometimes rough-hewn Slavocentrism
of his contemporaries and the technical demands of Western cosmopolitanism.
10:00-10:45 – Tchaikovsky’s
character and style
New Grove Russian Masters 1
Defining Russia Musically by Richard Taruskin
Tchaikovsky by Alexander Poznansky
The Music of Tchaikovsky by Gerald Abraham
Tchaikovsky and His World ed. Leslie Kearney
Tchaikovsky Trhough Others’s Eyes ed. Alexander Poznansky
10:45-11:45 - The early nationalist
2nd Symphony, 1872 rev. 1880
(CD: Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan cond.)
Romeo & Juliet, 1869 rev. 1880
(CD: Royal Philharmonic, Adrian Leaper cond.)
Vacula the Smith, 1874 rev as Cherevichky 1885
(DVD: Royal Opera House cond. Alexander Polianichko, cond.)
11:45-12:30 - Personal crisis and
mature mastery
12:30-1:30 – Lunch
1:30-2:00 - Mature Mastery &
Personal Crisis cont’d
Swan Lake, 1875
(DVD: La Scala, James Tuggle cond.)
4th Symphony, 1878
(DVD: Mariinsky Orch, Valery Gergiev)
Eugene Onegin, 1877-1878
(DVD: Met Opera, Gergiev cond.)
2:00-3:00 – The Imperial Style
5th Symphony, 1888
(DVD: Mariinsky Orchestra, Gergiev cond.)
Sleeping Beauty, 1889
(DVD: Royal Opera House, Valery Ovsyanikov cond.)
Queen of Spades, 1890
(DVD: Mariinsky Theater, Gergiev cond.)
3:00-4:00 – Final phase and death
6th Symphony, 1893
(DVD: Lucerne Festival/Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, Claudio Abbado
Brief Biography
Pyotr (Peter) Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840, in Votkinsk, Vyatka region, Russia. He was the
second of six children (five brothers and one sister). His father, named Ilya Chaikovsky, was a mining
business executive in Votkinsk. His father's ancestors were from Ukraine and Poland. His mother, named
Aleksandra Assier, was of Russian and French ancestry.
Tchaikovsky played piano since the age of 5, he also enjoyed his mother's playing and singing. He was a
sensitive and emotional child, and became deeply traumatized by the death of his mother of cholera, in
1854. At that time he was sent to a boarding school in St. Petersburg. He graduated from the St.
Petersburg School of Law in 1859, then worked for 3 years at the Justice Department of Russian Empire.
In 1862-1865 he studied music under Anton Rubinstein at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1866-1878
he was a professor of theory and harmony at the Moscow Conservatory. At that time he met Franz Liszt
and Hector Berlioz, who visited Russia with concert tours. During that period Tchaikovsky wrote his first
ballet 'Swan Lake', the opera 'Eugene Onegin', four Symphonies, and the brilliant Piano Concerto No1.
As a young man Tchaikovsky suffered traumatic personal experiences. He was sincerely attached to a
beautiful soprano, named Desiree Artot, but their engagement was dissolved by her mother and she
married another man. His homosexuality was caused him tremendous guilt. In 1876 he wrote to his
brother, Modest, about his decision to "marry whoever will have me." One of his admirers, a Moscow
Conservatory student named Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova, wrote him love letters and threatened
suicide if Tchaikovsky didn't marry her. But it was he who attempted suicide shortly into their brief
marriage in the summer of 1877. Antonina was eventually institutionalized, and died in an asylum after
20 years. Although legally divorced, Tchaikovsky supported her financially until his death.
Ordered by his doctors to leave Russia until his emotional health was restored, Tchaikovsky lived in
Europe for a few years. Tchaikovsky settled with his brother, Modest, in a quiet village of Clarens on
Lake Geneva in Switzerland and lived there in 1877-1878. There he wrote his very popular Violin
Concerto in D. He also completed his Symphony No.4, which was inspired by Russian folk songs, and
dedicated it to Nadezhda von Meck. From 1877 to 1890 Tchaikovsky was financially supported by this
wealthy widow, who also supported Claude Debussy. She loved Tchaikovsky's music and became his
devoted pen-pal. They exchanged over a thousand letters in 14 years; but they never met, at her
insistence. In 1890 she abruptly terminated all communication and support, claiming bankruptcy.
Tchaikovsky played an important role in the artistic development of Sergei Rachmaninoff. They met in
1886, when Rachmaninov was only 13 years old, and studied the music of Tchaikovsky under the
tutelage of their mutual friend, composer Aleksandr Zverev. Tchaikovsky was the member of the
Moscow conservatory graduation board. He joined many other musicians in recommending
Rachmaninov for the Gold Medal in 1892. Later Tchaikovsky helped promote Rachmaninov's graduation
work, the opera 'Aleko'.
In 1883-1893 Tchaikovsky wrote his Symphonies No.5 and No.6, ballets 'The Sleeping Beauty' and 'The
Nutcracker', operas 'The Queen of Spades' and 'Iolanta'. In 1888-1889, he made a successful conducting
tour of Europe, appearing in Prague, Leipzig, Hamburg, Paris, and London. In 1891, he went on a two
month tour of America, where he gave concerts in New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. In May of
1891 Tchaikovsky was the conductor on the official opening night of Carnegie Hall in New York. He was a
friend of Edvard Grieg and Antonín Dvorák. In 1892 he heard Gustav Mahler conducting his opera
'Eugene Onegin' in Hamburg. Tchaikovsky himself conducted the premiere of his Symphony No.6 in St.
Petersburg, Russia, on the 16th of October, 1893. A week later he died of cholera after having a glass of
tap water. He was laid to rest in the Necropolis of Artists at St. Aleksandr Nevsky Monastery in St.
Petersburg, Russia.
Musical Legacy (Wikipedia)
Tchaikovsky wrote many works which are popular with the classical music public, including his Romeo
and Juliet, the 1812 Overture, his three ballets (The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty) and
Marche Slave. These, along with his First Piano Concerto and his Violin Concerto, the last three of his six
numbered symphonies and his operas The Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin, are among his most
familiar works. Almost as popular are the Manfred Symphony, Francesca da Rimini, the Capriccio Italien
and the Serenade for Strings.
Tchaikovsky displayed an unusually wide stylistic and emotional range, from salon works of innocuous
charm to symphonies of tremendous depth, power and grandeur. Some of his works, such as the
Variations on a Rococo Theme, employ a poised "Classical" form reminiscent of 18th century composers
such as Mozart (the composer whose work was his favorite). Other compositions, such as his Little
Russian symphony and his opera Vakula the Smith, flirt with musical practices more akin to those of the
Five, especially in their use of folk song. Other works, such as the last three symphonies, employ a
personal musical idiom that facilitated intense emotional expression.
On the Web - An interactive journey through
Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony as a musical diary by Tchaikovsky.