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Preview: The Women in His Life   1867 - 1877

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The Years of Wandering   1877 - 1885

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(INTRODUCE THE THIRD MOVEMENT FROM THE 4TH SYMPHONY. THEN PLAY UNDER)
TCHAIKOVSKY: To regret the past and to hope for the future, never to be satisfied with the present: that is the story of my my life.
NARRATOR: By 17th October he and his brother,Anatoly, took rooms in a the Pension Richelieu in the small town of Clarens on Lake Geneva.  He wrote to Nadezhda von Meck:
TCHAIKOVSKY:
4th Symphony
3rd Movement - Scherzo
Clarens, Lake Geneva
Clarens on Lake Geneva
I need to rest here awhile, calm my nerves, and stop myself going over it all in my mind.

(BRING UP THE PIZZICATO STRINGS FROM THE SCHERZO AND TAKE DOWN AGAIN)

When I look back on the crazy things I did, I can only conclude that I suffered an attack of temporary insanity, from which I have now successfully emerged.

I must organize some provision for my wife, and work out my future relations with her.  I am again in need for money, and can turn to no-one but you.  It distresses me deeply, but I must grasp the nettle and appeal again to your inexhaustible generosity.
NARRATOR: Madame von Meck suggested the way to avoid the embarrassment of his constantly asking her for loans was to settle on him an annual subsidy of 6,000 roubles, paid in monthly instalements.  This would mean he could give up teaching at the Conservatoire and devote his life to composition. He wrote to his brother, Modest
TCHAIKOVSKY: My God, how kind, generous and tactful this woman is.

(BRING UP THE SCHERZO AND TAKE DOWN AGAIN)
NARRATOR:







Tchaikovsky in 1878
Tchaikovsky in 1878
In February 1878, while Tchaikovsky was was still travelling and while he was in Florence, Nicolay Rubinstein conducted the first performance of his 4th Symphony in Moscow.  The most famous movement is the high-spirited Scherzo, which Tchaikovsky had the inspired and original idea of scoring almost entirely for pizzicato strings.

(BRING UP THE SCHERZO AND PLAY OUT)
NARRATOR: When Nadezhda Later heard a performance of the symphony in Paris, she wrote:
NADEZHDA:
4th Symphony
1st Movement
The symphony as a whole is matchless, but the first movement in particular is the last word in art, the summit of genius, the crowning triumph, the meaning of God.

(ESTABLISH THE FIRST MOVEMENT OF THE 4TH SYMPHONY AND PLAY UNDER)
NARRATOR: In fact she was so carried away that she confessed her love for Tchaikovsly.
NADEZHDA: I wonder if you can understand the jealousy, with which I regard you, even though there are no personal relations between us.
NARRATOR: referring to his wife, she continued:
NADEZHDA: The thought of your intimacy with that woman was unbearable.   When you proved to be unhappy with her I rejoiced.  I hid my feelings from you, but I was powerless to control them.  I hated this woman because she made you unhappy, but I would have hated her a hundred time more, if she had made you happy.

The symphony is why I have blurted all this out.

(BRING UP THE FIRST MOVEMENT AND PLAY OUT)
NARRATOR: Meanwhile in the Spring of 1878 at Clarens He had sufficient peace of mind to compose his Violin Concerto.  It took him only a month to complete.

(ALLOW THE VIOLIN CONCERTO CANZONETTA - 2nd MOVEMENT TO ESTABLISH BEFORE WEAVING UNDER THE FOLLOWING)

Among many other subjects, he and Nadezhda corresponded about music.
NADEZHDA: I am convinced that if the most heartless robber, at the very moment, when his knife is poised above his victim, could suddenly hear some music, he would drop his knife and weep.
NARRATOR: She also wrote that his music was like a glass of sherry.  These words left a bitter taste in his mouth. Later in life he was to write of alcohol as a poison
TCHAIKOWSKY: A sick man filled with neuroses, emphatically couldn't manage without the poison. Each evening I'm drunk.  In the first phase of inebriation I feel the most complete happiness, and in that condition I understand infinitely more than I understand when making do without the poison!!!
NARRATOR: But now Now he wrote to Nadezhda
TCHAIKOWSKY: Man has recourse to liquor to deceive himself, to give himself the illusion of contentment and well being; whereas music is not deception, but revelation. Its unique power is to reveal to us the elements of beauty, which are not accessible by any other means, the contemplation of which reconciles us to our lives, not just for that moment, but for ever.

(BRING UP THE VIOLIN CONCERTO AND TAKE DOWN AGAIN)
NARRATOR:

Violin Concerto
2nd Movement
Canzonetta
Madam von Meck's estate at Brailov
Madam von Meck's
house at Brailov
It is remarkable that in writing 1200 letters to each other, they never met. On one occassion when Madame von Meck had installed him in a neighbouring residence, they met accidentally in the woods.  It was impossible to pretend they had not seen each other.  Even then no word passed between them.  Tchaikovsky merely raised his hat.  She seemed overcome with confusion.  They passed on.

(BRING UP THE VIOLIN CONCERTO AND PLAY OUT)

Back in Russia later that year, he read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
TCHAIKOVSKY:

Romeo and Juliet Overture
Love Theme
The Duomo at Florence
Romeo and Juliet
It now seems to me absurd that I couldn't see earlier that I was predestined to set this drama to music.

(ESTABLISH THE LOVE THEME FROM THE OVERTURE TO HIS ROMEO AND JULIET AND WEAVE UNDER

It will be my most monumental work.  Nothing is more suitable to my musical character.  There is love, love and love!  From children heedlessly intoxicated by love, Romeo and Juliet became people, loving, suffering, who found themselves in a tragic and hopeless position.
NARRATOR: There were other pressing projects to complete however.  He was to return to it in 1881 and 1893, but the opera was never completed.

(BRING UP THE LOVE THEME AND PLAY OUT AS APPROPRIATE)

The Duomo at Florence
The Duomo at Florence
That autumn to his great relief, he was relieved of his teaching at the Moscow Conservatiore and was able to devote himself thereafter solely to composition.

He continued his travels and on 2nd December returned to Florence, to find that, in loving detail, Nadezhda had made ready an appartment for him.  It had a new grand piano, books to his taste, Russian newspapers and his favourite cigarettes.  She had even tactfully given him a copy of her daily itinerary, complete with routes of the walks she intended to take, so that they could avoid uncomfortable chance encounters.

In between composing he read Little Dorrit with enormous enjoyment.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Dickens and Thackeray are about the only people I forgive for being English.  One must add Shakespeare, but he lived at a time when that vile nation was less ignoble.
NARRATOR: He could not forgive Britain's role in the Russian-Turkish war in the Crimea. However this proved a creative period.

(ESTABLISH THE MAID OF ORLEANS - ADIEU FORETS AND WEAVE UNDER)
TCHAIKOVSKY:

The Maid of Orleans
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
I shall begin to think about an opera, and I think I've finally settled on Joan of Arc. Schiller's tragedy, although it is not consistent with historical accuracy, still outstrips all other artistic presentations of Joan in its depth of psychological truth.

I am writing it remarkably quickly.  The whole secret is to work every day and carefully.  I impose an iron will on myself, and when there is no particular desire to work, I always force myself to overcome my disinclination and become carried away.

(BRING UP THE MAID AND PLAY OUT)
NARRATOR: In March 1879 he returned to St. Petersburg, where his father begged him to stay.
TCHAIKOVSKY: When I look at his wan appearance and thin face my heart contracts at the thought that his end is near.
NARRATOR: Then Antonina suddenly resurfaced and forced a meeting upon him.  It was the first time they had met in eighteen months
TCHAIKOVSKY:



2nd Piano Concerto
Andante
She threw herself on my neck and repeated endlessly that she loved me only in the whole world, that she could not live without me, that she agreed to any conditions I wanted, as long as I would live with her.   I confess it cost me an incredible effort of self-control not to tell her of the feelings of loathing she instills in me.   I handed her one hundred roubles for the return journey to Moscow.  At this she suddenly became as happy as a child, and recounted to me several instances of men, who had been in love with her during the winter.

(BRING UP THE ANDANTE FROM THE PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2 AND WEAVE UNDER)
NARRATOR: After giving birth to a host of illegitimate children, each deposited at a foundling's home, Antonina spent the last twenty years of her life in a mental hospital, where she died, twenty-four years after her husband, in 1917 - the year of the Bolshevik Revolution.

That summer after a fallow period at Kamenka, his sister's retreat in the Ukraine, he started work on his Second Piano Concerto; and at the end of 1879 he continued his European travels.  From Paris he wrote to his brother, Anatoly.
TCHAIKOVSKY:
Rue de la Paix
Rue de la Paix
I walk along the streets in a new grey coat with a most elegant top hat, showing off a silk shirt front with coral studs, and lilac coloured gloves.

Passing the mirrored piers in the Rue de la Paix, I invariably stop and admire myself.  In shop windows I also observe the reflection of my elegant person.

My concerto is ready in rough, and I am very pleased with it, especially with the Andante.

(BRING UP AND PLAY OUT THE ANDANTE)
NARRATOR: He moved onto Rome, from where he heard the news of his father's death.
TCHAIKOVSKY:

Capriccio Italien









NARRATOR:
Italian Street Singer
Italian Street Singer
I wept a lot, and I think these tears I shed at the disappearance from this world of an upright man endowed with an angelic spirit had a beneficial effect on me.  I feel enlightened and reconciled in spirit.

(ESTABLISH ThE FINALE FROM THE CAPRICCIO ITALIEN AND WEAVE UNDER)

He loved the popular music of Italy and was inspired to start writing his Capriccio Italien, for which he rightly saw a rosy future.  He began adapting many of the melodies sung in the streets.  He wrote to Nadezhda:
TCHAIKOVSKY: Yesterday I heard a delightful folksong, which I shall certainly use.

(BRING UP ThE FINALE FROM THE CAPRICCIO ITALIEN AND PLAY OUT)
NARRATOR:

1812 Overture
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow
Back in the Ukraine later that year, he was asked to write music to mark the consecration of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.  The Cathedral was destroyed by Stalin and rebuilt in the year 2,000.

(BRING UP THE 1812 OVERTURE AND TAKE UNDER)

The 1812 Overture depicts the retreat of Napoloeon's army from Moscow, under the superior might and skill of the Russian army.  It took him only a week to write and is Tchaikovsky's all time biggest hit
TCHAIKOVSKY: The overture is very loud and noisy.  I wrote it with no warm feelings of love, and therefore there will probably be no artistc merits in it.

(BRING UP THE 1812 OVERTURE AND PLAY OUT)
NARRATOR:

Serenade for Strings


























Liturgy of St John
Chrysostom
Ballet by Balanchine
Ballet by Balanchine
At the same time he was writing an entirely heartfelt piece, his Serenade for Strings.

(BRING UP THE SERENADE FOR STRINGS - THE WALTZ FROM THE SECOND MOVEMENT AND PLAY UNDER)

At its St Petersburg premiere in 1882 it was a popular triumph, with the Valse receiving an immediate encore.  He often incorporated waltzes into his more serious works.

(BRING UP THE SERENADE AND TAKE IT DOWN AGAIN)

It was later used as the basis for George Balanchine's ballet Serenade

These two very different pieces were written during one of the quietest periods of his life, during the summer 1880 at Kamenka.

(BRING UP THE SERENADE AND PLAY OUT)

In spite of a growing international reputation and several successful concerts back in Moscow, the following summer of 1881 at Kamenka continued to be uncreative.  He was distressed by his lover and servant, Alexei being drafted into the army, by the early death of his mentor, Nikolay Rubinstein, by his sister Sasha's being ill and by his niece Tatyana, whose engagement had been broken off and who had become a disruptive alcoholic and drug addict.

(PLAY THE LITURGY OF ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM AND WEAVE UNDER)

Recently Tchaikovsky had enjoyed a very good performance of his Liturgy of St John Chryostom.  It stands as a moving retreat from the agonies he was experiencing; a step into another world.
TCHAIKOVSKY: I am still visited by doubts: I still sometimes try to comprehend the incomprehensible - but louder and louder the voice of divine truth begins to reach me.  I pray to God (where he is, who he is, I know not, but I know he exists), and I pray to him to give me humility and love.

(BRING UP THE LITURGY OF ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM AND PLAY OU)
NARRATOR:


Piano Trio
in A minor
Russian Dancing Girls by Degas
Russian Dancing Girls
by Degas
Back in Rome at the beginning of 1882 after a fallow period he at last felt inspired.

(ESTABLISH THE PIANO TRIO IN A MINOR AND PLAY UNDER)

He wrote his Piano Trio an A minor in memory of Nikolay Rubinstein. According to a friend the theme was inspired by memories of an enchanting day in a beauty spot near Moscow, where Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein had dined al fresco with peasants singing and dancing for them.

He was beginning to tire of travel and his growing fame made him want greater privacy.  He wanted a home of his own.
TCHAIKOVSKY:
his house at Maidanovo
His house at Maidanovo
Land is quite unneccesary to me.  I want only a modest house, but with a nice garden.  A river is certainly desirable.  If there is a wood nearby, so much the better.

This dacha must be completely detached; but it must be not far from a railway station, so that Moscow is always at hand.
NARRATOR: He advertised in a Moscow newspaper, and found a house at Maidanovo, a villlage 50 miles north west of Moscow, where he was to write some of his greatest compositions.

(BRING UP THE PIANO TRIO IN A MINOR AND PLAY OUT)

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