Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tchaikovsky: a literary composer

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is a romantic composer and conductor. For some critics and music-lovers he is still regarded as one of the greatest of all Russian composers.
Throughout this week the BBC radio will broadcast his masterpieces (radio player, down the list and click on 'The Tchaikovsky experience') and proposes to vote for your favourite music piece from the top 10 including 'Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture'. It is a long symphonic poem which captures the tension between the two families and the street fight of the first act in order to set it into music. This sensation of agitation is followed by a slower rhythm which leads the hearer to the central love theme and which also relates the fatal course of their love. All this remaining magical for me some more practical information is to be found on the very useful Wikipedia Encyclopaedia as well as concerning the music made for other W. Shakespeare's plays ('The Tempest', 'Hamlet').
Tchaikovsky is also well-known for his operas. One of his 11 operas is based on the novel 'Eugène Onéguine' which is written in verse by his compatriot A. Puschkin who started the tradition of the 'great Russian writers'. Being faithful to the novel the opera depicts the life of the main charachter Eugène who is a selfish young man. After having denied the feelings of Tatiana he falls in love with her sister Olga who is his friend's fiancée. This betrayal of friendship leads to a cruel dual between the two men and so Eugène killed his friend. Nevertheless, Eugène regrets not to have well considered Tatiana when he sees her again but it is too late for she is married to a prince and remains faithful to him. Another opera based on Puschkin's short story is 'The Queen of the Spades', but other ones are also to be traced back to novelists'works such as N. Gogol for instance.
Besides operas, he also composed ballets. It is said that this genre regained its 'noble' status thanks to Tchaikovsky who succeeded in incorporating symphonic elements. The 'Swan Lake' ballet is inspired by a German legend which features two lovers who cannot consume their love. Indeed, the princess was turned into a swan by a curse and both died at the end even if one speaks of transcendent love. To give an idea on how the lover will catch and shoot the graceful swan the very well done site of the BBC proposes to watch a documentary on the rehearsals.

Isn't it romantic? As B. Disraeli said:"We are all born for love. It is the principle existence and its only end." I wish you all (lovers and singles) a lovely St Valentine's Day.


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The Crazy Musician said...

Interesting facts about Tchaikovsky:
- He was first meant to become a magistrate and not a musician;
- He was homosexual (a situation that brought him lots of financial and personal problems);
- He was lazy and had a very low self-esteem;
- Romeo and Juliet's first performance was a disaster and was harshly criticized;
- He thought that only music could express loving feelings (isn't that cute :p!).

[Sources: well, my head!]

Aline Richard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aline Richard said...

Hi Larry,
you couldn' miss this post!:) yes it is also said that he had never known complete happiness in love. First because he married one of his students and second because homosexuality was a 'teer punt'in the 19th century. That is perhaps the reason of his interest for such a love theme.
see you.

The Crazy Musician said...

1) un utilisateur anonyme's post is only some kind of spam. Administrators should get rid of this content.

2) No kiddin' Aline :D!
Btw, about this wedding, he actually tried to commit suicide. He thought that his wedding was an error and he never returned to his wife even if he remained married with her till his death.
The influence of homosexuality on his music (including Romeo & Juliet)is not clear. Musicologists' opinions vary from one viewpoint to another.