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1 Brandon Carro 10/10/2011 Hist 499 Dr.


“...and at the end, even before the last notes of the finale were heard, the audience went mad again...”1

These heartfelt words from his brother Modest greeted Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in a letter describing the St. Petersburg premier of his latest work: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. In its notes Pyotr expressed his personal turmoil before the world in a lyric manner unsurpassed by any of his previous works. The first movement begins with the brass playing a theme of fate inescapable, giving way to a melancholy, almost questioning melody played by the string section. The woodwinds then take this passage, trading it back between the string section before it is built to such a powerful level of expression that bursts forth before the audience; their worries and insecurities played before them only echoed and reinforced by the descending calls from the French horns. Such music comes from the heart and reflects all that Pyotr experienced in 1877. These years have come to be known as the “crisis period” in Pyotr's life. It is a time in which he met the woman who drove him to the point of insanity: his wife Antonina Miliukova. Pyotr also met woman who provided him with an intimate friendship he could not find elsewhere, despite never meeting her in person: Nadezhda von Meck. These two women and others played a central role
1 Pyotr Ilyich Tcaikovsky, An Autobiography by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Letters to his Family , trans. Galina von Meck (Briarcliff Manor, NY: Stein and Day Publishers, 1983), 179-180.

2 in Pyotr's life at this time. Without them the world would not have his lyric, expressive fourth symphony. Pyotr tried to express in music everything they caused him to feel, from his lowest moments to his gradual recovery from the brink of madness. As well as an expressive work, this symphony also displays Pyotr's complete mastery of symphonic writing2, separating himself from his western European contemporaries and his fellow Russians. In particular a group of five composers known as “The Might Handful” or “The Five” had hither to dominated Russian music. While Pyotr often corresponded with this group and even collaborated with them on at least one occasion, he remained opposed to their overall style, instead choosing to pursue a more personal form of composition. In Pyotr's fourth symphony he displayed his artistic individuality while also remaining true to his Russian heritage. Pyotr once described his life: “To be sorry for the past, to hope for the future, never content with the present . . . ”3 This reflection on Pyotr's made its way into his music, often coating it with a sense of drama and fate. In a sense the musical world is fortunate that Pyotr's life during 1877 did not pass smoothly. Had it done so, this symphonic masterpiece which manages to touch on every possible emotion could not exist. Born on May 7, 1840, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky could scarcely have asked for better conditions in which to grow up. His father Ilya served for most of his life in the army, graduating from the School of Mines and Engineering in 1817.4 He then served in the Department of Mines, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Ilya managed the mines in and

In this usage “symphonic writing” means to compose music for a symphony orchestra, not specifically a form of music called a symphony. 3 Ibid., Letter 191, pg.169. 4 Modeste Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, trans. Rosa Newmarch (University Press of the Pacific, 2004), 2 2

3 around the city of Votkinsk, where his wife Alexandra gave birth to Pyotr. It is clear from the account given to us by Modest Tchaikovsky in his biography of Pyotr, The Life and Letters of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, that he had a most enjoyable childhood.5 During Pyotr's early years a French-German nanny named Fanny Durbach took care of him and his siblings. It is from Fanny's testimony that a picture of a young Pyotr is painted: “At lessons no child was more industrious or quicker to understand, in playtime none was so full of fun”6 In addition to being a hard working if occasionally rambunctious child, Pyotr's earliest interest in music is evident through Fanny: “Left to himself, he preferred to play the piano.”7 During this period of his life Pyotr never lacked in anything; his father's position managing the mines made him akin a landholding elite, reminiscent of older times in Russia. Indeed the Tchaikovskys did have a noble background, although Modest tells us that Pyotr thought little of his aristocratic heritage.8 While Pyotr may not have considered himself a member of the social elite, even from his younger years he displayed a strong sense of patriotism that never slacked as he grew older. Whenever someone mentioned to Pyotr that the name “Tchaikovsky” is Polish in origin, he reacted quite severely.9 His nurse, Fanny, once caught him spitting on a map of Europe, specifically on every country except Russia.10 While childish in nature it, it never the less shows a love of country that Pyotr never lost, something which is reflected in the use of Russian folk tunes in his music. Specifically in the finale to the fourth symphony Pyotr employs the folk tune


6 7 8 9 10

While Modest's work should not be considered false, at times, especially when talking about his family's background, he paints a picture that is perhaps slightly too rosy. That is to say, the truth seems a bit stretched for the artistic purposes of his writing. Considering the social standards and exceptions of 1906, the year the book was written it, and Modest's fierce loyalty to his brother Pyotr it is understandable that certain elements are somewhat painted over. Despite this, it remains a very reliable source on Pyotr for the discerning reader. Ibid., 7. Ibid., 9. Ibid., 1. Ibid., 1. Ibid., 6.

4 “In the Field a Birch Tree Stood.” There is no indication that in Pyotr's early years he knew this song; rather he appears to have learned it much later in life. Pyotr's early musical abilities proved not only to be a gift, but in some cases a curse, although perhaps in a slightly childish way. His parents gave a ball for the local nobility and upper class. After working himself to a state of over-excitement at the ball Pyotr retired early. Upon noticing this, Fanny Durbach found him in his room, sitting on his bed crying. When asked what bothered him, the young Pyotr pointed to his head saying “Oh this music! Save me from it!”11 Despite a predisposition to music, Pyotr did not instinctively turn to it as a medium for self-expression. There are several documents saved by Fanny Durbach that show Pyotr exploring literature as an artistic medium. Pyotr's early versus are espouse his patriotic love: “Toi, oh Russie aime!” as well as an interest in Joan of Arc.12 Modest describes this, saying “Here the future musician is knocking at the wrong door.”13 Never the less it does show an interest in self-expression most children would not be curious about. The sensitive nature of Pyotr's personality remained with him throughout his life. Even into adult hood Pyotr remained prone to fits of depression and nervousness, which often could easily be exacerbated. Fanny Durbach noted that disciplining him proved to be difficult: “. . . a trifle wounded him deeply, he was brittle as porcelain.”14 Modest also noted his older brother's nature, stating that he had a nervous tension that never quite seemed to abate.15 Often Pyotr's morose came through in his music, not only his later compositions, but from childhood: he had

11 12 13 14 15

Ibid., 13. Ibid., 10. “You, oh lovely Russia!” Ibid., 10. Ibid., 7. Ibid., 16.

5 tremendous skill at piano improvisation, although he did it “just for myself alone when I feel sad.”16 Pyotr did not often perform on the piano for his friends and family, despite his great ability. Almost from the time he began taking lessons Pyotr managed to reach the same level

of proficiency as his tutors. Regardless of his, this he restrained himself. Modest suggests that pride may have influenced his decision not to play, or perhaps he did not have faith in his own skill.17 This is a reasonable assertion; Pyotr did not decide at once to become a composer; his lack of confidence in his own skill meant that he had to first convince himself. It would not be until he began attending the School of Jurisprudence in St. Petersberg that he displayed his improvisational skill for his friends. Even then, they considered his ability to improvise dance music merely a parlor skill of no significant consequence. As Pyotr grew from a child into a young adult his parents considered his future. Like his father and older brother Nickolas, his parents initially considered sending Pyotr to study at the School of Mines and Engineering. Their opinion changed when Pyotr's father Ilya reunited with an old friend who had became a successful lawyer. He convinced Ilya that Pyotr should attend the School of Jurisprudence and become a civil servant. In 1850 Pyotr left for St. Petersburg. Despite his abilities as a hard worker, being only ten years of age meant that he had to spend two years in a preparatory school before being accepted. Upon reaching the age of twelve Pyotr transferred to the School of Jurisprudence to begin his training. Pyotr's time at the School of Jurisprudence formed him into a competent, if unremarkable young clerk. In writing this section of his biography on Pyotr, Modest ran into difficulty in finding any reliable sources from this time. It appears that Pyotr did not form a great impression
16 Ibid., 18. 17 Ibid., 17.

6 on many people. He was “a very ordinary young man, and not many people kept track of his coming and goings.”18 During Pyotr's time at school his mother died. The death of his mother in 1854 had a huge impact on the young schoolboy. Her death broke him down completely, and Pyotr admitted that it had “a huge influence on the way things turned out for me”19 It is from this event that Pyotr first tried to seriously compose something: a waltz in memory of his mother. The School of Jurisprudence did not hold Pyotr's interest, and he turned to music shortly after graduating from the school in 1859. Initially he gained a position in the Ministry of Justice, but in spite of this managed to study music at the same time.20 This extra work required much of Pyotr's time and effort; he realized that sooner or later he must decide which path to take. Pyotr's father Ilya, although never overly keen on the idea of his son becoming a musician, did encourage Pyotr, saying that despite his training as a official he could still become an artist.21 This is remarkable, as it represents one of the few times a member of Pyotr's family encouraged him to seriously consider music as an career. Even Pyotr's school friends didn't think much of his musical abilities.22 While this may have pushed Pyotr toward the path of music, he remained unsure of his talent. In particular he thought that it was too late to become a musician; they had made him into a civil servant and nothing more. Eventually Pyotr started to think more about becoming a musician. As previously stated, he had started studying music while at in school. Just like most young people however, he became worried over the future. “How will I end? What does the future promise for me? I fear to think about it.”23 In part this dread must have been cause by the coming decision he must

18 19 20 21 22 23

Ibid., 25. Ibid., 28. Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 7, 9. Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 35. Ibid., 21. Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 7, 9.

7 make over his future career: civil servant or musician. While he did not gain a great reputation as a civil servant, he could still perform the job with some success, whereas turning to music meant starting almost from the beginning. Pyotr had the innate musical skill to become a composer and musician. While some of his friends and family members may not have been overly impressed with his abilities, Pyotr recognized them: “Who knows, perhaps, in about three years you will be listening to my operas and singing my arias.”24 At this point in his life it became a matter of following one of two paths: either entering a new school and studying music or remaining in the civil service. The idleness of youth cannot be discounted in Pyotr's case. In a letter to his brother Alexander, Pyotr realizes this: “The only thing I fear is my lack of will-power. Laziness may get the upper hand and I succumb to it. . .”25 Perhaps realizing that he must do something for a living, “One cannot receive a salary all one's life without doing anything in return,”26 Pyotr made the decision to give up his position at the Ministry and turn to music. “I have entered the newly opened Conservatoire and the courses begin in a few days' time . . . Don't think that I imagine myself becoming a great artist – all I want is to do what my vocation is calling me to do.”27 With these words Pyotr announced to his sister that he resigned from the Ministry of Justice and began attending new St. Petersburg Conservatoire. As he stated, he did not hold any illusions about becoming a great composer. Rather he followed this path partly to sooth his own mind. “Whatever I become in the end – a famous composer or a poor teacher – my conscience will be at peace and I will not have the heavy burden of grumbling

24 25 26 27

Ibid., Letter 7, 10. Ibid., Letter 8, 11. Ibid., Letter 8, 11. Ibid., Letter 9, 12.

8 against fate and people”28 While Pyotr may have felt better for his decision, his family did not entirely approve. Pyotr's father, who had at one point encouraged his son to become a musician looked with disapproval on Pyotr's decision. “From your letter to Papasha [Papa] received today I see that you have no real interest in my position and that you look with distrust on the decisive step I have taken . . .”29 His family's financial position in part explains their coolness toward Pyotr's decision to become a musician. His father, who had retired some years earlier, lost most of his fortune in a business deal gone wrong. While he did not expect to have his children support him, he did not look favorably on his son Pyotr giving up a salaried, reliable position. Nevertheless Pyotr felt confident in his decision. “All I can say is that I will become a good musician and will always be able to earn my daily bread.”30 He could see no other option; music had consumed his life and retaining a position in the ministry could not be done. “To be an adequate official and to study music at the same time is impossible.”31 His brother Nickolas, like his father, did not entirely approve of Pyotr's decision either. Pyotr's retort to this lack of confidence is in keeping with how he handled criticism from other family members: “Perhaps I will not become a Glinka,32 but one thing I can assure you – you will be proud someday to own me as a brother.”33 Pyotr finally began to appreciate and understand his musical abilities. Such a sudden change from civil servant to musician did come with several drawbacks for Pyotr, the most considerable being financial. During this time in his life, Pyotr's father had lost most of his money in a poor business decision. His situation had forced him to move in with
28 29 30 31 32 Ibid., Letter 10, 13. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) was the first Russian classical composers to gain any fame both in Russian and Europe. He is in effect the grandfather of Russian classical music. 33 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 33.

9 his daughter and her husband and as such Ilya could not support the budding composer. Two of Pyotr's brothers were also attending college at the time, and his oldest brother Nickolas could not provide much support for Pyotr, this is in part because he did not approve of Pyotr's decision to become a musician. Pyotr had to rely on himself, as his family could only provide him with love. Being well aware of this, Pyotr decided that he must rein in his life style. Hitherto he had lived in quite some fashion: “The last week before Lent I spent in a very noisy and stupid way.”34 As part of his austerity program Pyotr “completely renounced all social pleasures, elegant clothes, etc, etc, . . .”35 Giving up his (admittedly modest) position at the Ministry meant that another source of income had to be found. To this end planned on getting at job at the conservatoire in the following season, as well as taking in a few private pupils. Given his overall situation Pyotr would not starve. At the same time, his appearance suffered somewhat. When visiting Pyotr at the conservatoire Modest noted that he wore a “once stylish coat” and that his hair had grown long; the svelte Pyotr his brother had once known had changed.36 While perhaps Pyotr had trouble keeping up appearances, he could at least take joy in the fact that he finally could study music seriously. He spent four years at the conservatoire (186165) learning the skills which would one day allow him to compose his Fourth symphony. At the conservatoire he had two primary teachers: Nickolas Zaremba, from whom he learned harmony and counterpoint, and Anton Rubinstein, who taught composition. This is not the last time Rubinstein will be mentioned, he played an important role throughout Pyotr's life. At this time Rubinstein held the position of Director at the Conservatoire, in addition to his teaching duties. Rubenstein had a tremendous impact on the young Pyotr, who looked on him with a sort of

34 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 1, 3. 35 Ibid., Letter 10, 13. 36 Ibid., 44.

10 awe.37 This is understandable, Rubinstein at the age of thirty had composed a considerable collection of music, both symphonic and piano. During his time at the conservatoire Pyotr became exposed to more music then he had previously experienced. Growing up he heard mostly Italian operas, in particular Mozart's Don Juan which had impressed him to such a degree that Pyotr remarked “It is due to Mozart that I devote my life to music.”38 Now at the conservatoire Pyotr heard the works of Meyerbeer, Berlioz, Liszt, and Wagner. While Pyotr never cared for Wagner, he did find his orchestration to be striking and highly original.39 This exposure to a wide variety of western-style music had a tremendous impact on Pyotr, and can be seen as the beginning of his desire to compose music which could stand up to western standards. Pyotr studied diligently at the conservatoire. In him his professors found great potential, something which Pyotr found encouraging: “All the professors at the conservatoire are pleased with me . . . if I work hard much will come out of me . . . all above is not a boast, but an honest statement without false pride”40 Never the less, Pyotr did occasional have difficulties with his professors, in particular Rubinstein. Tasked to compose an overture to Ostrovsky's The Storm, Rubinstein did not like the final product: “How dared you bring me such a specimen of your own composition!”41 Rubinstein did not find the modern orchestra that Pyotr used to be of much value, he instead preferred the classical orchestra used by Beethoven and Mozart. In this sense Pyotr became a disappointment to his teacher; in the modern orchestra Pyotr found a medium of expression unparalleled by any other form, his love of Mozart withstanding. During his time at the conservatoire Pyotr developed an unusual habit. Befitting his nervous, occasionally shy
37 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 52. 38 Ibid., 24. 39 Orchestration is the process in which the various instruments in an orchestra are assigned their parts in a piece of music. Pyotr was in part motivated to compose Swan Lake to show that his ability to orchestrate was just as great as one of his contemporaries, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. 40 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 10, 13. 41 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 50.

11 persona Pyotr did not initially enjoy conducting. Standing between the orchestra and the audience proved to be grating and Pyotr felt that he would shake so much his head would fall off.42 As a response to this fear he conducted with his right hand while his left would be tucked beneath his chin and beard! This unusual form of conducting did not hold Pyotr back and he graduated from the conservatoire at the end of 1865. Having moved from child to student, to civil servant, to student once again he emerged from the conservatoire a competent musician. In the words of his friends he had become “the greatest contemporary musical talent in Russia.”43 This is perhaps unsubstantiated; Pyotr's first major work, his Symphony No. 1 in G Minor “Winter Daydreams” was not composed until 1866. In all likelihood his friends were trying to bolster his spirits. After graduating Pyotr took up a position at the Moscow Conservatoire, managing to get the position at least partially through the influence of Rubinstein. When Ilya Tchaikovsky heard that his son had taken this position, he did not respond favorably.43 Rather, he pointed out the poor conditions which Pyotr would be living and working in. This may have been partially tongue in cheek, as Ilya cited Glinka as an example of a “failed” composer.44 Despite this, for someone as sensitive as Pyotr he may not have taken it entirely as intended. In a letter to his brothers Anatoli and Modest written shortly after traveling to Moscow Pyotr refers to his “state of despondency, which has been very bad lately.”45 While Pyotr may have been somewhat depressed he quickly moved on in his life, teaching students harmony and beginning to work on his first symphony. This symphony did not do well initially. Seeking the approval of his former teachers, Pyotr

42 43 43 44 45

Ibid., 53. Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, 19. Ibid., 19. The joke here being that Glinka was anything but a failed composer. Ibid., 19.

12 submitted the work to Rubinstein and Zaremba, and their conservative taste in music caused them to reject Pyotr's work. If Pyotr's former instructors did not look favorably on his work, another group of composers started to take a greater interest in him. Ever since the death of Glinka in 1857 a group of five Russian composers dominated the musical world in Russia. These men were the “The Five” or “The Mighty Handful.” They did not want to compose in older western European-Germanic forms but rather in a new uniquely Russian style. To them Pyotr represented something that they had hither to been fighting against: a conservatoire educated students taught to compose in the manner of Beethoven and Meyerbeer. While they initially remained cool toward Pyotr he gradually became accepted by them. This is in no small part due to the leader of the group, Mily Balakirev. Mily Balakirev, together with the well respected critic Vladimir Stasov, created “The Five.” Balakirev had a reputation for being iron-willed; he expected his fellow group members to conform to his musical tastes. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a fellow member of The Five, describes him as being “obeyed absolutely, for the spell of his personality was tremendous.”46 In addition, he thought that composers could only produce their best work under the close scrutiny of their peers. This is how he actively enforced his own ideas onto the music of his fellow composers and students. “The slightest deviation in taste was severely censored by him . . . whatever did not suit him at the moment was belittled.”47 This is not to say he merely criticized. Rimsky-Korsakov speaks highly of his ability as a pianist and sight reader who could point out any flaws in form or harmony in his fellow composer's works. This is something that proved to be invaluable to “The Five” as many of them were not professionally trained musicians. Indeed Balakirev's natural musical gifts allowed him to attain a degree of perfection in music theory
46 Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, My Musical Life, (London, UK: Faber and Faber, 1923) 27. 47 Ibid., 28.

13 which allowed him to bypass formal education.48 What he failed to realize in RimskyKorsakov's opinion was that each student did not have his natural ability; they progressed at their own pace. While perhaps something of an ideologue, Balakirev exerted a major presence throughout Russian music and directed the style of The Five. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov trained not as a composer or musician, but as a naval officer. Indeed he composed most of his first symphony while sailing around the world with the Russian navy to fulfill the requirements of the officer cadet program. Displaying natural abilities toward music as a child, he became acquainted with Balakirev who helped instruct him in musical composition. Eventually Rimsky-Korsakov became known as the soul of The Five, and certainly one of the more prolific members of the group. Having reached a dead end of creativity, Rimsky-Korsakov accepted a professorship at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, which led to a falling out between him and the other members of The Five. This falling out is because a formal conservatory style of education, whether as a teacher or a student, went against everything “The Five” stood for. Alexander Borodin, like the other members of The Five, did not select music as his primary occupation. While he did play the cello, oboe, and flute he spent most of his time teaching chemistry at the university in St. Petersburg. His professional obligations at the university did nothing to diminish his musical prowess. When Rimsky-Korsakov first became acquainted with him in 1865, Borodin's musical abilities surpassed Rimsky-Korsakov's. Borodin always worked on something, Rimsky-Korsakov tells us that while visiting Borodin, the chemist often ran between his lab and the sitting room. In the sitting room he composed, only to run

48 Ibid.

14 back to the lab and make sure nothing had boiled over.49 Over all Rimsky-Korsakov retained a favorable impression of Borodin, saying he “. . .was an exceedingly cordial and cultured man, pleasing and oddly witty to talk with.”50 Despite his name, Modest Moussorgsky had probably the most original and unique ideas out of “The Five.” A retired infantry officer, Modest has often been referred to as a genius one hundred years ahead of his time, and had Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov not consistently reedited his works Moussorgsky would have been one of the most original composers of the nineteenth century. Rimsky-Korsakov disagrees with this view point. While certainly he considered Moussorgsky's ideas quite interesting he states that “Without him [Balakirev] they [Moussorgsky and Cesar Cui] would have been unable to take a step. Who else would have given advice and show them how to correct their compositions as regards form?”51 Indeed this became a considerable problem for The Five. While all of its members had inherent musical skill, they often lacked the education required to make impressive music. Moussorgsky could play the piano beautiful and offer helpful advice to his students, but he “had not the slightest technical training as a composer.”52 This is something which hindered Moussorgsky's development as a composer, he may have great ideas but often did now know exactly how to express them in formal, written music. César Cui, like the other members of The Five (with the exception of Balakirev), had not trained as a musician. Like Moussorgsky, Cesar had joined the army and became a master at fortifications, only studying and practicing music as a hobby. Despite this he became a prolific composer, focusing mainly on art songs, piano music, and operas. Unlike his contemporaries he
49 50 51 52 Ibid., 57. Ibid., 57. Ibid., 31. Ibid., 32.

15 did not engage in much symphonic writing. This may be in part due to a lack of interest in that style of music: “Cui . . . was far from being able to manage clear and natural part-writing, and for orchestration he had neither the inclination nor ability.”53 Besides composition and fortifications Cui became primarily known for his ability as a critic. In part his own lack of success in composition may be because of the harsh reviews he commonly published; people were no more inclined to be nice to him than he was toward others. Pyotr's first symphony is thought to have failed its public premier partially because of the scathing review that Cui wrote. Despite an initial displeasure toward Pyotr's work, Cui eventually became a great support of Pyotr's musical endeavors. This regard for Pyotr and his music is true for all the members of The Five. An initial dislike toward Pyotr changed when they became better acquainted with him and his music. Pyotr spent most of his time in Moscow and did not get to meet The Five in person for some time. The fact that he had attended a conservatory did not help him in the eyes of The Five: “As a product of the conservatoire, Tchaikovsky was view rather negligently if not haughtily by our circle. . .”54 At this time Pyotr had only composed his first symphony. As a result his reputation had not yet been cemented. Until Pyotr met the members of The Five, they remained unimpressed with him. In 1868 he finally became acquainted with them, and The Five changed their opinion: “He proved to be a pleasing and sympathetic man to talk with, one who knew how to be simple of manner and always speak with evident sincerity and heartiness.”55 During this meeting Pyotr played, at the request of Balakirev the first movement of his Symphony No. 1. “It proved to be

53 Ibid., 31. 54 Ibid., 75. 55 Ibid.

16 quite to our liking; and our former opinion of him changed to a more sympathetic one.”56 Pyotr could never really be considered a member of The Five: “Tchaikovsky's conservatory training still constituted a considerable barrier between him and us” Rimsky-Korsakov tells us.57 Despite this it appears that Balakirev thought that he might recruit Pyotr to the group. At this point, 1867-68, The Five started to fall apart. This is primarily because of Balakirev. While many of his contemporaries regarded him as a fine artist, his dictatorial nature had not won him many friends, and his fellow members of The Five felt stifled under his leadership.58 Pyotr himself did not care for Balakirev entirely. Like other men who worked with him, Pyotr considered Balakirev insufferable, as well as uneducated in the technical aspects of music, despite having tremendous talent. Pyotr did work with Balakirev on two separate occasions, the first of which provided him with his first masterpiece: Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. Balakirev worked closely with Pyotr in creating this work, encouraging him to rewrite it several times before it reached the form we know today. The piece had such a tremendous impact on the members of The Five that one of their co-founders, Vladimir Stasov said: “There were five of you; now there are six.”59 Rimsky-Korsakov tells us that “all of us . . . were captivated by the melodious theme of his overture Romeo and Juliet.”60 With this piece Pyotr had helped created his legacy, as well as the incidental music for a great number of future films and soap operas.61 The second time Pyotr and Balakirev worked together Pyotr composed his Manfred Symphony. While it did not gain the same fame as his other symphonies, it remains a splendid work. The Five accepted Pyotr in part because he used Russian folk music and themes.
56 57 58 59 60 61 Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., 86. Ibid., 78. Ibid., 77. Incidental Music is in essence the soundtrack to a film, television show, or play. It is music that the audience can hear, but that the characters in the piece cannot.

17 Through their use of folk tunes, and the thematic material their music was based on, The Five succeeded in creating a uniquely Russian style of music. For example Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic suite Scheherazade is based on the ancient Persian story of 1001 Arabian Nights. While this is more eastern than Russian, during this time many composers, artists, and critics considered Orientalism to be a legitimate form of Russian expression.62 This is largely because during the nineteenth century Russia constantly expanded into the Far East. In addition to Scheherazade, Rimsky-Korsakov composed a symphonic piece called Fantasy on Russian Themes and Balakirev composed a Grande Fantasie on Russian Folk Songs. Borodin wrote a very popular piece called In the Steppes of Central Asia, while Moussorgsky did Night on Bald Mountain. Pyotr, in his Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 17 made use of three Ukrainian folk songs, earning it the nickname “Little Russian”63 The Five heartily approved of this symphony, as noted in a letter from Pyotr to his brother Modest: “When I was in Petersburg and played the finale at an evening at Rimsky-Korsakov's house all those present were so enthusiastic that they nearly tore me to pieces.”64 Pyotr's Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Op. 29 also follows the nationalistic practices that the members of The Five espoused. While this work did not make any direct use of folk tunes it uses the rhythms typical of Polish folk music, particularly in the finale. Like his second symphony this one is not directly Russian, as it used Polish rhythms. During this period Russia, Austria, and Prussia had divided Poland between them, with Russia receiving the largest section. Because of this, the use of Polish characteristics would have been considered legitimately nationalistic for a Russian composer.

62 Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures. 63 “Little Russia” at this time was a colloquial term for the Ukraine. 64 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 90, 79.

18 Pyotr's music showed some similarities to The Five; in particular his use of folk tunes. Regardless of this his music remained markedly different from theirs. In part this is because he received a formal education in music theory. Having been a conservatoire student he experienced and had been exposed to a greater variety of music, as well as studying how such music is written. As a result Pyotr's music has a more western, cosmopolitan quality to it. This can be seen in the form of his music. Whereas the members of The Five chose mostly to compose in a loose-symphonic formed derived from Franz Liszt's symphonic poems, Pyotr made full use of the traditional sonata form and symphonic form. While he had received this formal training Pyotr often did not follow western form entirely to the letter; Pyotr wanted his music to be expressive which occasionally demanded a break from traditional form.65 This can be seen in the symphonic poems he composesd, with Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, Op. 32 being his most famous. By 1877 Pyotr had composed three symphonies, several symphonic poems and ballets. Having lived thirty-six years he had traveled across Europe and experienced much of life. Despite this Pyotr could not have known that this year promised some of his lowest points emotionally, and some of his greatest musical successes. In his personal life he married Antonina Miliukova, as well as becoming acquainted through letters with Nadezhda von Meck. While he never met her in person, Nadezhda became one of his closest friends and confidants. During this period Pyotr composed two works of great importance: his fourth completed opera Eugene Onegin, and his Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. Pyotr began composing this work before his ill-fated marriage and slightly before he met Nadezhda. In a letter to Nadezhda from
65 The Symphonic Poem is a piece of music in one movement, where the thematic ideas and emotions are moved between more liberally. This is compared to the traditional symphonic form where each movement (in general there are four) has a distinct attitude and emotion, typically: I. Stormy II. Sad/Romantic III. Happy IV. Confident.

19 early May, Pyotr says that he is “engrossed in a symphony, which I began to write during the winter."66 During the same time that Pyotr began composing this new symphony he made a decision which effect him profoundly. Namely, he decided to start looking for a wife. In August of 1876 Pyotr wrote a letter to his brother informing him that he intended to marry. Pyotr's sister Alexandra worried over her brother. Showing a certain degree of foresight she confronted him over his proposed marriage, to which he responded: “Do not worry yourself about my marriage, my angel. The event is not yet imminent.”67 In light of what is known about Pyotr his plan to marry is surprising. As a thirty-six year old bachelor he had not shown much interest in women outside of a brief courtship in 1868 with the Belgian singer Désirée Artôt. Their engagement did not last. Despite this it has been suggested that he coded her name into his first piano concerto and his symphonic poem Fatum, signifying that he held her in his heart for some time.68 Pyotr even went so far to say that “she was the only women I ever loved.”69 This is an inauspicious set up for his second engagement. Perhaps the even more unsettling element in this situation is Pyotr's sexual orientation: he was a homosexual.70 In spite of his romantic preoccupations Pyotr continued to work on his symphony. Shortly after informing Nadezhda of his new symphony in May of 1877 he wrote to her, saying “I have prepared the first three movements in sketch form, and have set about the finale”71 By

66 Ibid., Letter 136, 115. 67 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 188. 68 David Brown, Tchaikovsky: The Early Years, 1840-1874, (New York City, USA: W W Norton & Co Inc, 1979) 179-200. 69 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 81. 70 While some scholars have debated over his sexual orientation, there is enough evidence to confirm his homosexuality. 71 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 138, 117.

20 the beginning of June Pyotr had completed an outline of the entire symphony. 72 The next step at this point would be to finish the composition process by filling in the outline and begin working on the orchestration. This period in May is of considerable significance. During this time Pyotr had become acquainted with Nadezhda von Meck, a wealthy widow and business woman, through a close friend and student of Pyotr's at the conservatory, Iosif Kotek. Kotek would later help Pyotr write his violin concerto, and traveled with Pyotr through Italy and Switzerland73 In Nadezhda, Pyotr found someone in who he could confide, and she proved to be just as eager to get to know Pyotr.74 She is in fact a counter-balance to his wife. While Antonina drove him to the point of suicide, Nadezhda helped console him, and encouraged him artistically. This is despite the fact they never met face to face. Because of Nadezhda's own feelings toward Pyotr and their relationship she insisted that they never meet in person. Pyotr realized the importance this new friendship had on his personal and professional life. To repay Nadezhda for everything she had provided for him, Pyotr dedicated this fourth symphony to her. The dedication reads simply “To My Best Friend.” Not only does this dedication provide insight into how Pyotr felt about her, but given the nature of patronage in Russia during the nineteenth century this dedication acquires new significance. During this time a patron and composer were seen as artistic equals. When Pyotr dedicated his fourth symphony to Nadezhda he affirmed the influence and support she had given to him. This symphony had not completely taken shape, as two events delayed Pyotr in the compositional process: working

72 Ibid., Letter 139, 117. 73 It has been suggested that Kotek was also Pyotr's lover. While there certainly was a great affection between the two, it appears to have cooled rather quickly, although they remained close friends. Lacking any definitive evidence, the exact nature of their relationship is lost to history. 74 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 205.

21 on his new opera, and his short, traumatic marriage. Pyotr decided to compose an opera despite working on his new symphony. In April of 1877 Pyotr wrote a letter to Vladmir Stasov in which he declared his intentions to compose this new opera: “On this road my next planned stop is an opera . . . ”75 Pyotr did not come up with Eugene Onegin himself.76 He attended a dinner party with several friends where “. . . the conversation came round to operatic subjects. . . . Lizaveta Andreevna was silent and smiled . . . when she suddenly said “What about using Eugene Onegin?”77 In this same letter to his brother Modest, Pyotr claims that at first the idea seemed wild to him, but upon further reflection he became enraptured with this work by Pushkin and decided to start composing. Working on this new opera occupied the last half of May, and all of June for Pyotr. During this time he also decided to marry Antonina, becoming engaged to her at the end of May. Pyotr's reasons for marrying are known in their entirety only to him, although there are some possible explanations. Pyotr had a number of rumors circling around him in Russia at this time, not the least of which regarded his sexuality.78 To be a homosexual man in the Victorian era meant a life of hiding and deception; in Russia persons who perpetrated this “crime” faced exile in Siberia. While this seems harsh, the strict moral and sexual codes of this religious era made such a punishment seem reasonable. In England, Oscar Wilde received two years hard labor for his sexual activities with another man. Possibly to avoid such a fate himself Pyotr married. It is also possible that he married out of a sense of duty toward his family. Faced with such rumors the Tchaikovsky family could find themselves in awkward social situations. Pyotr loved his family dearly, his letters to them show that few people meant more to him than his parents,
75 76 77 78 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 135, 115. Eugene Onegin is a novel in verse written by Alexander Pushkin. It is considered a classic of Russian literature. Ibid., Letter 137, 117. Ibid., 124.

22 brothers, and sister. He would not want his family to suffer in any way because of him, and as such he may have used marriage as a cover for his true nature. The decision of Pyotr's close friend and favourite pupil to marry may also have moved Pyotr to consider such a step himself.79 Pyotr probably obscured the true reasons himself, not wishing his sexual nature to be known. In a letter to his sister he only states: “I shall begin to look around and prepare myself a little for matrimony, which for various reasons I consider necessary.”80 For these reasons, or others known only to himself, Pyotr married Antonina Miliukova on the eighteenth of July, 1877. They remained together only six weeks. There has been much speculation as to what precisely caused this marriage to fail. In the biography written by Modest he vehemently blames Antonina, calling her a “crazed half-wit.”81 This is an unfair assessment of Antonina. While she may have been a woman of simple taste and pleasure, deriding her to this extent does not do any credit to Modest, who proved to be jealous of anyone in Pyotr's confidence beside himself, and does not provide much insight to the marriage. Pyotr describes her as being “quite poor and of moderate education, but apparently very good and capable of a loyal attachment.”82 Pyotr gives us a closer look into this ill-fated marriage in a letter sent to Nadezhda. He tells Nadezhda that Antonina had been a student of his briefly at the conservatoire. She also proved to be a great fan of his work. Indeed, she contacted him through what can only be described as a fan letter. While Pyotr normally did not correspond with his fans, “The letter was so warm and sincere that I decided to answer it.”83 Thus began a correspondence which ended with Pyotr agreeing to meet her. This is quite surprising

79 Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikosky: The Quest for the Inner Man, (London, UK: Schirmer Trade Books, 1991) 203-205. 80 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 188. 81 Ibid., 250. 82 P.I. Tchaikovsky to N.v. Meck, as quoted in Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 218. 83 Ibid.

23 considering the lengths Pyotr often went to avoid people, especially his fans, but in his words: “Now it seems as though some hidden force drew me to this girl.”84 In this same letter we find that Pyotr bears the responsibility for this failed marriage: ". . . afterwards I began to reflect upon the folly of my proceedings. If I did not care for her, if I did not want to encourage her affections, why did I go to see her, and where will all this end ? From the letters which followed, I came to the conclusion that, having gone so far, I should make her really unhappy and drive her to some tragic end were I to bring about a sudden rupture. I found myself confronted by a painful dilemma : either I must keep my freedom at the expense of this woman's ruin (this is no empty word, for she loved me intensely), or I must marry. I could but choose the latter course. Therefore I went one evening to my future wife and told her frankly that I could not love her, but that I would be a devoted and grateful friend ; I described to her in detail my character, my irritability, my nervous temperament, my misanthropy finally, my pecuniary situation. Then I asked her if she would care to be my wife. Her answer was, of course, in the affirmative. . . ."85

This extract from a letter not only shows that Pyotr is primarily to blame for this failed marriage as he offered to marry not only a woman he did not love, but a women who had become obsessed with him, but it also is the literary embodiment of his fourth symphony. Pyotr crafted these words so perfectly: they reflect the drama and passion of his music. In these words the tearing,

gripping emotions of love and fear are laid bare before us, the eternal conflict between fate and dreams, hope and reality pressed before our eyes in the form of a choice Pyotr must make: sacrifice or self interest. A marriage of unrequited love or personal shame and remorse over casting away a young woman's honest, heartfelt romance. One can almost hear the despondent, echoing calls of fate which begin the symphony.
84 Ibid. 85 Ibid.

24 For a man finely attuned to romance and personal emotion, Pyotr's sense of drama perhaps overpowered his rational center. He entered into a marriage which never had a chance of succeeding. While Pyotr holds the lion's share of blame Antonina is at fault as well. Pyotr hid nothing from her, although in keeping with the period he probably referred to his homosexuality obliquely and through metaphors. Despite this she still agreed to marry him. Antonina's biggest fault is that she loved the idea of being married to Pyotr rather than loving Pyotr himself. While Antonina shared this genuine affection, it alone would not create a happy marriage as Pyotr could never return any similar feeling. His proposed view of their marriage, with him as a “devoted and grateful friend” is strikingly naive. Pyotr viewed this as a platonic marriage, and for Antonina, Pyotr would be her prized procession: “I would just sit there looking at him, and think 'Thank God he belongs to me and no-one else! Now he is my husband, no-one can take him away from me!”86 For her Pyotr was the living embodiment of the warmth and passion his music displayed. Pyotr did not reciprocate any of these feelings: “To live thirty-seven years with an innate antipathy to matrimony, and then suddenly. . . to find oneself engaged to a woman with whom one is not in the least in love is very painful.”87 This event proved to be more than just “very painful” for Pyotr: his mental and emotional state began to breakdown. In a telegram sent to St. Petersburg asking his brother to meet him at the train station when he arrived, Pyotr describes himself “in a condition boarding on insanity.”88 When his brother met him at the station Pyotr was completely unrecognizable, and after being taken to a hotel he suffered a “violent nervous crisis” before collapsing into a forty eight hour nervous-stress induced coma. Upon recovering Pyotr's doctors told him that for his health, he

86 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 224. 87 P.I. Tchaikovsky to N.v.Meck, as quoted in Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 218. 88 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 223.

25 must never live with his wife again. Pyotr's feelings toward his wife were somewhat mixed. Modest tells us that “never in speech or writing did Tchaikovsky lay the blame for this unhappy incident upon his wife.”89 It is true that Pyotr acknowledged that he alone must shoulder the blame for this event, his wife had only “unwittingly and involuntarily” caused his misery.90 Pyotr's acknowledgment is further reinforced in his correspondence with Nadezhda. He recognized that “The blame for everything lies on my lack of character, my weakness, impracticality, childishness!”91 As to how Antonina handled these events, she appears to have been a rather oblivious person. When Anton Rubinstein and his brother Nikolai went to her apartment to explain what had happened to Pyotr and that he must never be with her again, she handled the news dismissively, merely agreeing to whatever Pyotr wanted. Antonina then proceeded to talk about how fortunate that the famous Rubinstein brothers had come to visit her. This event when combined with the knowledge that she failed to recognize any change in Pyotr during their brief time together suggests that her perceptive powers were either below average or clouded by her feelings toward Pyotr. For Antonina, their marriage passed by as a sort of dream, an alternate reality constructed mostly in her own mind. After Pyotr's flight from Moscow he only saw his wife once again, briefly at the end of August. They continued to correspond occasionally, but never with any warmth. The logical step in this situation would be a divorce. Although rare in nineteenth century Russia, a divorce certainly could be obtained on the grounds of unfaithfulness. Initially Pyotr's brother Anatoli tried to convince her that Pyotr must have a divorce for medical reasons. Antonina however

89 Ibid. 90 Ibid.- “unwittingly and involuntarily” are Pyotr's words. 91 Anthony Holden, Tchaikovsky: A Biography, (New York City, USA: Random House, 1996) 240-241.

26 refused, while she would obey Pyotr in most cases, she could not abide a divorce. Anatoli then attempted to bribe her into agreement. Perhaps sensing the damage to her social life that such a lie could bring about, Antonina again refused, despite having very little income for herself or from her family. In this midst of this matrimonial crisis of 1877 Pyotr continued to compose, although he did take a brief break during the middle of the summer. Having finished Eugene Onegin during June, his fourth symphony once again became the center of his professional work. With this marriage falling apart almost as soon as it began Pyotr fled from St. Petersburg to Kamenka in the middle of August. In Kamenka his sister Aleksandra and her husband managed an extensive estate. Here Pyotr often came to compose throughout his life, and when his family gathered at Kamenka, Pyotr seemed to be at his happiest. In this case, his visit in mid August 1877 did not do much to lift his spirits. He had not recovered from the drama of his marriage. Pyotr complained that “I would be lying if I said that I have returned to my normal state of mind. . . . I have decided not to do any further work. Work frightens and oppresses me.”92 This is understandable considering all that Pyotr had gone through only a few weeks previously. To fully recover from his traumatic marriage would require much more time. It appears though that this state of inactivity did not last very long. In the middle of August Pyotr reported to Nadezhda that “Our symphony progresses. The first movement will give me a great deal of trouble as regards orchestration. It is very long and complicated. . ."93 Although the orchestration process had begun, Pyotr did not feel that the symphony would be ready before December. Feeling that he could not entirely abandon his young bride Pyotr briefly considered


Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 593 to Nadezhda von Meck. (accessed November 2, 2011). 93 Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 222.

27 rejoining her at the end of August in Moscow. They had not arranged a divorce, nor had any permanent separation been agreed to, despite his doctor's orders. Pyotr and Antonina did see each other again, and Pyotr's nerves collapsed. Once again Pyotr had to leave, this time permanently. If no divorce could be obtained then a complete separation had to happen. It took until early January 1878 for the terms of this separation to be finalized. In a rare letter to his wife Pyotr outlined the terms: as long as she lived he would pay her a one hundred ruble pension per year, as well as assuming her debt of 2,500 rubles. In return she “must live in such a way that I can be sure not to see you or run into you—as far as possible, of course[Pyotr's underlining].”94 Pyotr also remained adamant that the piano belong to him, she may sell everything else they jointly own at no deduction to the 2,500 rubles he agreed to pay, but “the piano will remain mine . . . It will remain there until my return . . .”95 Overall the agreement proved to be quite good for Antonina. While technically she and Pyotr remained married until his death in 1893 she would be financially secure although Pyotr warned her that “. . . I have no means whatsoever, that I shall be forced to work like an ox in order to fulfill all my obligations towards you, and that there is a limit to everything.”96 While these terms took some time to settle, Pyotr planned to leave Russia as soon as possible. Initially Pyotr traveled to Clarnes, Switzerland. This town became much loved by him, and it appears that outside of Russia it proved to be his favourite destination. His finances pressed hard on Pyotr during this time. Modest tells us that he had “. . . only money enough to last five or six weeks . . .”97 While this may have been the limit to which his own income could support him, Pyotr in no way could return to the conservatory in Moscow where he held a
94 95 96 97 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 702a to Antonina Tchaikovsky. Ibid. Ibid. Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 225.

28 professorship; his nerves had not recovered. Modest figures that to fully recover would require at least a year's rest, something which would not be possible without outside support. As luck would have it Pyotr had not been forgotten. Pyotr had proven to be one of Russia's leading composers, his first three symphonies, symphonic poems and ballets, notably Swan Lake, meant that people in Russia and Europe loved him. Nikolai Rubinstein, through the influence of his brother Anton at the conservatory, managed to have his pay continued for the class he would have taught had he remained in Moscow. Nikolai greeted him with kind words: “Try to calm yourself . . . You are far too highly valued as a musician to be compromised by secondary considerations.”98 In addition to such kindness from his friends and associates at the Moscow conservatory Pyotr also had the help of his new patroness, Nadezhda von Meck. Nadezhda gave Pyotr a small fortune – 6,000 rubles. Just as Nikolai Rubinstein did, Nadezhda also showered him with good will: “You know how many happy moments you have given me, how grateful I am, how indispensable you are to me. . .”99 This devoted care from his friends and family helped Pyotr begin to recover. The friendship of Nadezhda in particular seemed to help Pyotr: “Your letter is so warm and friendly that it would suffice of itself to reawaken in me the desire for life, and to help me to endure all its miseries.”100 Pyotr's wife had driven him to the point of collapse, while Nadezhda helped bring him back through her compassion. With his financial concerns taken care of, Pyotr could devote his time as he saw fit. With a certain degree of renewed confidence in himself, and with a bank account able to support him, Pyotr decided to travel to Italy for the rest of 1877. During this time he worked almost constantly on his symphony, now the only major project left unfinished. Eugene Onegin

98 As quoted in Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life and Letters of Pyotr, 226. 99 Ibid. 100 Ibid.

29 still required some of his attention, the piano score had to be finished as well as various tasks such as sending the manuscript to Russia. Despite this his compositional forces had been freed for the symphony, and Pyotr planned on having it finished by the end of December. Pyotr first traveled to Venice and found it not to his liking. Despite his distaste for Venice, he set about working on his symphony. If his surroundings did not agree with him, he at least looked forward to having his brother Modest join him. Pyotr tells us that “Expecting something pleasant is an excellent stimulus for work.”101 Some of the joy he felt at seeing his brother is expressed in his symphony; the third movement with its bouncing strings and playful flute melodies capture such a sense of joy and happiness that the heartfelt woes of the first and second movement almost vanish. Even if Venice perhaps didn't satisfy Pyotr completely, he realized that it did help him work: “. . . it is only thanks to the monotony of Venetian life and lack of all distractions that I could work so hard and intensively.”102 And work hard Pyotr did. The letters from this time show that Pyotr spent much of his time engaged in composing: “This morning I finished the first, the most difficult part of my symphony.”103 “Today I worked at my symphony all day from early morning and am very tired, so do not expect a long letter.”104 “I slept very well and sat down to work at my symphony as soon as I was up.”105 It became clear to Pyotr that his work was paying off, he writes to his brother Modest that “My symphony is definitely the best work I have written so far, but it needed some hard work to compose it . . .”106 A few days later Pyotr wrote to his brother Anatoli, saying that “. . . this symphony I am composing I know is not just an ordinary piece of music, but in

101 102 103 104 105 106

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 147, 127. Ibid., Letter 150, 129. Ibid., Letter 149, 128. Ibid., Letter 156, 135. Ibid., Letter 146, 127. Ibid., Letter 147, 127.

30 form the most perfect of all my compositions up to date.”107 Pyotr also expressed a similar sentiment to Nadezhda, saying he found “None of my previous orchestral works ever cost me such labour, yet I have never felt such a love for one of my own pieces.”108 Pyotr finished his symphony on January seventh, 1878, only slightly over a year after having started it. The finale, with its powerful, uplifting melody so forcefully played by the brass section shows that Pyotr had come to terms with all that had happened over the course of 1877. Part of the joy exuded from this movement is due to the fact that Pyotr's brother Modest had joined Pyotr in Italy. Throughout Pyotr's letters he always shows a great love to his brothers and sister. It is clear that these are the people that mean the most to him, as well as Nadezhda von Meck. Their love and support carried Pyotr through the storm of his marriage and the emotional collapse resulting from it. While the entire symphony tells us Pyotr's story, the finale in particular shows that with the support of his loved ones, he managed to survive 1877. The finale to this symphony can be broken down into three parts. The first section is a joyous, triumphant melody, played by the brass section with the strings and woodwinds supporting. In the second section the storm of the first movement (of the symphony) returns; the hopeless emotions have only been worked through, not forgotten. The last section of the finale starts out almost completely silent, before the joyous melody grows cheerful and powerful before the finale ends on the a chord favored by Pyotr; a symphonic display of fireworks and happiness that convinces the listener that the emotions played for them are not anything less than exactly what Pyotr felt. Pyotr tells us he “. . . was extremely depressed during the winter when writing the symphony, and it rather echoes my feelings at that time . . . They remain, in general,

107 Ibid., Letter 150, 129. 108 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 684 to Nadezhda von Meck.

31 memories of most terrible and dreadfully difficult times"109 This makes it sound as if this entire symphony would consist of sadness. This is certainly not the case; when writing about the finale Pyotr reminds us “. . . do not say that everything in this world is sad. Joy is simple, but powerful. Rejoice in the rejoicing of others. To live is still possible.”110 While this symphony is not exactly autobiographical for Pyotr, it is entirely personal for him. He writes to a friend: “I’ll add that there is not a note in this symphony (that is, in mine) which I did not feel deeply, and which did not serve as an echo of sincere impulses within my soul.”111 Through the love of those close to him, and through working on this symphony Pyotr found it possible to still live. Written in a letter to Nadezhda six days before completing the symphony Pyotr sums up his situation: “. . . tomorrow I shall be reconciled to all former and future misfortunes.”112 Having completed his Symphony, Pyotr needed to have it preformed. In a letter to a friend of Pyotr's who worked at the conservatory he is adamant that the symphony be performed during this season.113 While Pyotr's reason for this seems vague in the letter, “For a number of reasons it is most important for me that it should be performed precisely during this season.,” the most likely reason behind this urgency is to complete the process of emotional expression Pyotr went through. Pyotr worked hard on this symphony, and it is the embodiment of his emotional life of 1877. In order to gain a sense of completion, of closure, he needed to have it performed. The premier of the symphony came on February 22, 1878 in Moscow with Pyotr's friend Nikolai Rubinstein conducting. While Pyotr had been adamant that his new symphony be performed as soon as possible,

109 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 763 to Nadezhda von Meck. 110 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 696 to Nadezhda von Meck. 111 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 799 to Sergei Taneev 112 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 696 to Nadezhda von Meck. 113 A “season” for classical music performances generally lasts from the end of August to the start of May of the following year.

32 he did not attend its premier. Pyotr had recovered from the trauma experienced in 1877, but he did not wish to return to Russia. This may be due to the lingering pain over the events of the previous year. It was also perhaps enough for him to know that it had been performed; he did not need to attend the premier. This does not mean that he remained disinterested in the critical response to his symphony. Pyotr desperately wanted to know how the work had been received. In a letter to his brother Anatoli from March of 1878, Pyotr asks whether or not his symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini had been performed in St. Petersberg, as he had heard nothing about that performance. This leads Pyotr to ponder in the same letter, “Could it be that it [Francesca da Rimini] has passed as unnoticed as my symphony in Moscow?”114 Nadezhda wrote Pyotr about the premier. Indeed she is the only person truly close to Pyotr who responded to him right away. Several of Pyotr's friends from the conservatory in Moscow also wrote to him, although they only told him that it had been well played. Pyotr's friends gave this limited response because they were unsure about the symphony as a whole. The most common criticism about the symphony is that the first movement is overlong: it imbalanced the entire piece. Pyotr himself felt a little unsure over the first movement, stating that parts of it were “contrivances, seams, glued-together bits—in a word, artificiality”115 In the fourth symphony as a whole Pyotr's differences from the music of The Five are again reinforced. While the fourth symphony is a very colorful work, the oriental colors and depictions that “The Five” favored as being uniquely Russian are not present. There are no kings, no great Slavic lords, or native folk tales of grand and exotic destinations. Rather, what we have is an intensely personal piece; it is about emotion and life rather than the grand
114 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 174, 151. 115 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 799 to Sergei Taneev

33 depiction of a classic fable. Pyotr preferred these types of programs. When choosing Eugene Onegin as the subject for his opera, Pyotr remarked: “How glad I am to be free of Egyptian princesses, pharaohs, poisonings, and stilted effects of all kinds.”116 For Pyotr the emotion of the individual, of everyday life was to him truly important. Pyotr aspired to “convey through music every day, simple, universally human emotions, far removed from anything tragic or theatrical.”117 This is not to say that Pyotr's music is not dramatic, this is far from the case. Rather, Pyotr tries to avoid the almost melodramatic nature of nineteenth century opera as practiced by Wagner and in some cases Verdi. In form the fourth symphony is also different from most of the music composed by “The Five.” Where as they generally preferred a very loose form and progression of ideas, Pyotr sticks closely to what he had learned at the conservatory in regard to the form. This is not to say that the fourth could be seen as a direct copy of a western European symphony. Certain elements of its form are indicative of “The Five” and their nationalistic style. This is seen mostly in the first movement of the symphony. The first movement could almost been seen as a standalone piece, a symphonic poem like Francesca da Rimini. This is in part because of its length and also because of the forceful nature of its themes. In the finale of the symphony Pyotr shows his similarities to The Five in his use of the Russian folk song “In the Field a Birch Tree Stood.” Pyotr recognized that this mix of Western and Russian ideas of form could be difficult for the listener: “I must confess to you: in my naivety I imagined that the idea of the symphony was very clear, that in general outline its sense could be understood even without a programme.”118 This is where understanding the biographical information about Pyotr's life between 1877-78 will be of
116 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 565 to Modest Tchaikovsky – Here Pyotr is referring to the Opera Aida by Verdi, who Pyotr generally regarded with high esteem. 117 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 597 to Nadezhda von Meck 118 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 799 to Sergei Taneev

34 use to the listener. By understanding these events the ideas behind the fourth symphony become clear, and any confusion regarding this mixed form is cleared. While Pyotr may have been critical of certain parts of his fourth symphony, it remained for him his favourite work. In a letter to a friend and contemporary musician Sergei Taneev, Pyotr describes that what for him makes this symphony his best is its personal nature.119 Taneev found certain aspects of this symphony disagreeable, namely its intensely personal and programmatic nature. Pyotr's opinion could not be further from Taneev's: “ But is this not what a symphony, that is, the most lyrical of all musical forms, ought to be? Ought it not to express everything for which there are no words, but which gushes forth from the soul and cries out to be expressed?”120 The warm feelings Pyotr felt toward his fourth symphony were not particular to the period directly after its composition. Throughout his life Pyotr continued to love this symphony. Near the end of 1878, one year after he composed it, Pyotr refers to the symphony as “his child,” saying that “it is one of only a few works with which I have not experienced disappointment.”121 Nearly ten years later, when speaking of the symphony to Nadezhda, Pyotr tells us that unlike many of his orchestral works he had not cooled to the fourth symphony, and he was “. . . filled with warm and sympathetic feelings towards it. I don’t know what the future may bring, but presently it seems to me that this is my best symphonic work”122 Pyotr continued to compose, writing three more symphonies in his life time. One of these symphonies, the Manfred Symphony, was not numbered by Pyotr and thus there are only “six” symphonies, although in total there are seven. Pyotr began working on a seventh (actually eighth) symphony, but could not find the emotional strength or reserves to finish composing it
119 120 121 122 Ibid. Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 799 to Sergei Taneev Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 985 to Nadezhda von Meck Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. 2010. Letter 3572 to Nadezhda von Meck

35 before he died. Of his numbered symphonies the last three (numbers four, five, and six) have become standard in concert repertoire. In general Pyotr's sixth symphony is regarded as his finest. This is because like his fourth symphony, the sixth attempts to convey the personal emotion and turmoil of Pyotr's life in the 1890's. Where as some people express themselves through art, or dance, Pyotr turned to music throughout his entire life: as a small child playing the piano when he felt sad, to when his mother died and he composed a waltz in her memory, to the emotional expression of his symphonies. When Pyotr began trying to make a name for himself in the early days of his career he put his personal exuberance and joy into his second symphony, mating it with the nationalistic ideals of “The Five” to produce a piece of music both uniquely Russian and uniquely Pyotr. While Pyotr never fully embraced the ideals of “The Five”, choosing to peruse a more personal style of composition, he did associate with these men and appreciated their music. Pyotr's first recognized masterpiece, his Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, was a result of working with Mily Balakirev, the leader of The Five. Despite Balakirev's often forceful intrusion of his own idea's into his contemporary's music, Pyotr had his own feelings of love and longing coded into the notes. The Fantasy Overture's sense of drama is also something that Pyotr personally felt. With his fourth symphony Pyotr sought to express the personal turmoil of 1877: his failed marriage which nearly cost his sanity, and the loving care of the people who gave him the strength pass through these darkest of days. A young Pyotr wrote in 1861 to his sister, saying “I know that either early or late in life (probably early) I will not have the strength to fight against life's difficulties and will get smashed to bits.”123 Such a dramatic prediction is not unwarranted in Pyotr's case; he knew himself and his personal disposition. What he did not know however


Tchaikovsky, Pyotr. Letters to his Family, Letter 7, 9.

36 was more important: that there would be people to help him on his path, to give him the strength to survive, and to compose.

37 Works Cited Brown, David. Tchaikovsky: The Early Years, 1840-1874, New York City, USA: W W Norton & Co Inc, 1979 “Letters 1877-78” Tchaikovsky-Research, (April 4, 2011) (accessed 9/24/2011) Poznansky , Alexander. Tchaikosky: The Quest for the Inner Man, London, UK: Schirmer Trade Books, 1991 203-205. Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay Andreyevich. My Musical Life. London, UK: Farber & Farber, 1990 Tchaikovsky, Modest Ilyich. The Life & Letters of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. J. Lane Company, 1906. (accessed August 25, 2011) Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich. An Autobiography by Piotr Ilyich Tchiakovsky: Letters to his Family. Briarcliff Manor, NY: Stein and Day, 1982 Works Consulted Bennigsen, Olga. “A Bizarre Friendship: Tchaikovsky and Mme. von Meck.” The Musical Quarterly 22 (1936): 420-429 Bennigsen, Olga. “More Tchaikovsky-von Meck Correspondence” The Musical Quarterly 24 (1938): 129-138 Brown, David. “Balakirev, Tchaikovsky and Nationalism” Music & Letters 42 (1961): 227-241 Calvocoressi, M.D. “The Correspondence between Balakirev and Tchaikovsky” The Musical Times 53 (1912): 712-715 Garden, Edward. “The Influence of Balakirev on Tchaikovsky” Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 107 (1980-1981): 86-100 Poznansky, Alexander. Tchaikovsky through Others' Eyes. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999 Shostakovich, Dmitri. Russian symphony; thoughts about Tchaikovsky, by Dmitri Shostakovich and others. Freeport, N.Y: Books for Libraries Press, 1947 Tchaikovsky, Anatol. “Recollections of Tchaikovsky” Music & Letters 21 (1940) 103-109 Westrup, J.A. “Tchaikovsky and the Symphony” The Musical Times 81 (1940): 239-252