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Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky must be regarded as the most popular of all Russian composers, his music offering certain obvious, superficial attractions in its melodies and in the richness of its orchestral colouring.
There is more to Tchaikovsky than this, and it would be a mistake to neglect his achievement because of what sometimes seems to be an excess of popular attention. Born in Kamsko-Votkinsk in , the second son of a mining engineer, Tchaikovsky had his early education, in music as in everything else, at home, under the care of his mother and of a beloved governess. From the age of ten he was a pupil at the School of Jurisprudence in St.
Petersburg, completing his course there in to take employment in the Ministry of Justice. During these years he developed his abilities as a musician and it must have seemed probable that he would, like his contemporaries Mussorgsky, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, keep music as a secondary occupation, while following another career.
For Tchaikovsky matters turned out differently. The foundation of the new Conservatory of Music in St. Petersburg under Anton Rubinstein enabled him to study there as a full-time student from In he moved to Moscow as a member of the staff of the new Conservatory established by Anton Rubinstein's brother Nikolay. He continued there for some ten years, before financial assistance from a rich widow, Nadezhda von Meck, enabled him to leave the Conservatory and devote himself entirely to composition.
The same period in his life brought an unfortunate marriage to a self-proclaimed admirer of his work, a woman who showed early signs of mental instability, and could only add further to Tchaikovsky's own problems of character and inclination. His homosexuality was a torment to him, while his morbid sensitivity and diffidence, coupled with physical revulsion for the woman he had married, led to a severe nervous break-down.
Separation from his wife, which was immediate, still left practical and personal problems to be solved. Tchaikovsky's relationship with Nadezhda von Meck, however, provided not only the money that at first was necessary for his career, but also the understanding and support of a woman who, so far from making physical dernands of him, never even met him face to face.
This curiously remote liaison only came to an end in , when, on the false plea of bankruptcy, Nadezhda von Meck discontinued an allowance that was no longer of importance, and a correspondence on which he had come to depend. The story of Tchaikovsky's death in St. Petersburg in is now generally known. It seems that a member of the nobility had threatened to complain to the Tsar about an alleged homosexual relationship between Tchaikovsky and his son.
To avoid open scandal a court of honour of Tchaikovsky's old school-fellows met and condemned him to death, forcing him to take his own life.
His death was announced as the result of cholera, and this official version of the event was, until relatively recently, generally accepted. As a composer Tchaikovsky represented a happy synthesis of the West European or German school of composition, represented in Russia by his teacher Anton Rubinstein, and the Russian nationalists, led by the impossibly aggressive Balakirev.
From Rubinstein Tchaikovsky learned his technique, while Balakirev attempted time and again to bully him into compliance with his own ideals. To the nationalists Tchaikovsky may have seemed relatively foreign. His work, after all, lacked the primitive crudity that sometimes marked their compositions. Nevertheless acceptance abroad was not universal. Hanslick, in Vienna, could deplore the "trivial Cossack cheer" of the violin concerto and other works, while welcoming the absence of any apparent Russian element in the last of the six symphonies.
In England and America there had been a heartier welcome, and in the latter country he had been received with an enthusiasm that exceeded even that at home. In his diary of the American concert tour of he remarked on this and on the curious habit of American critics, who tended to concentrate their attention on the appearance and posture of a conductor, rather than on the music itself.
At the age of 51 he was described in the American press as "a tall, gray, interesting man, well on to sixty". Throughout his life Tchaikovsky wrote music for the piano, much of it to supply the demands of an amateur market. Among the earliest such pieces are the three grouped under the title Souvenir de Hapsal , Op. He nevertheless dedicated the three pieces to her after his return to St. The 6 Morceaux , Op.
The Nocturne of the Op. Les Saisons The Seasons , Op. Each monthly issue was to contain an appropriate piece by Tchaikovsky.
The resulting collection, however reluctant the composer may have been, has much charm, as it takes the listener through the year, from the fireside in January, through Carnival , the song of the lark, April snowdrops and the nights of May. October autumn, the November Troika and to Christmas, offering occasional challenges to the technical proficiency of the amateurs for whom the pieces were intended.
The 12 Morceaux of moderate difficulty, Op. On his doctor's orders Tchaikovsky had taken refuge abroad towards the end of the year and seven of the pieces that make up Op. The set was completed at his brother-in-law's estate at Kamenka in the Ukraine. The Chanson triste is possibly the most successful of the series, coupled here with the Song Without Words in A minor.
The commercial realities of music publishing are illustrated by the fact that Tchaikovsky asked his publisher Jurgenson for 50 roubles for his Violin Concerto but for Op. Piano pieces, even of moderate difficulty, were easy to sell. About this Recording 8. Keith Anderson. Close the window.
Chanson triste, Op. 40 No. 2 (cello & piano)
12 Pieces, Op.40 (Tchaikovsky, Pyotr)
Tchaikovsky - Chanson Triste sheet music for Cello