Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man

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9780028718866: Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man

This monumental biography traces Tchaikovsky's relationship to the culture in which he lived and created. Drawing on the composer's correspondence and diaries, the author deciphers the often coded language that surrounded Tchaikovsky's passionate attachments.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Instead of Tchaikovsky's music, Russian ‚migr‚ Poznansky, a librarian at Yale, here emphasizes ``the man who wrote the music.'' Without the music, though, Tchaikovsky's life seems to have little point, and the man himself appears to be thoroughly repulsive, arrogant, exploitative, and disloyal, a self-centered pederast, emotionally and morally crippled. Born into a family ``saturated with eroticism,'' both Tchaikovsky and his brother were homosexual from childhood, with incest being, according to Poznansky, ``not inconceivable,'' perhaps ``indisputable.'' As Tchaikovsky succeeded as a musician, he traveled the capitals of Europe, entering into sexual alliances with princes, street urchins, servants, other musicians, even his own nephew, over whom he obsessed for much of his life, preferring always young men, preferably below the age of 15. Tchaikovsky used women, too, marrying a compliant young girl, abandoning her after two weeks, and later blaming her for causing him moral, psychological, even ``hemorrhoidal'' pain when she refused to divorce him. In another instance, he allowed the widowed Mrs. von Meck to support him for 13 years on the condition that she never attempt to see him. At last, her fortune and health declining, she sent him a large and final sum in advance--whereupon he accused her of ``betraying'' him, of being ``perfidious'' and ``cruel.'' In spite of the sexual license of the upper class, homosexuality was illegal and several of Tchaikovsky's young friends committed suicide; according to Poznansky, the composer did not, as legend has it, but died of cholera. Poznansky concludes, having offered no evidence to support it, that Tchaikovsky's life ``is a generous achievement worth telling for its own sake.'' The evidence he does offer supports an interpretation of the composer as a classic narcissist, a concept relevant to his talent and his music. But, while Poznansky claims to be writing ``historical psychology,'' he seems to show little interest in or knowledge of psychology, nor does he get past the charming facade and effusive letters in his pursuit of what he calls the ``inner man.'' (Sixty-four photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

This monumental 656-page biography is probably the fullest, most revealing account to date of Tchaikovsky's private life. Poznansky identifies the death of the composer's mother as a shattering experience for young Pyotr Ilyich, a source of deep existential melancholy. His hypersensitivity, forged by a child's feeling of paradise lost, would manifest in neurosis, insomnia and depressive fits marked by "a sense of insurmountable terror." A Yale University librarian, Poznansky explores the composer's obsessive fear of death, his idealized relationship with eccentric, free-thinking patron Nadezhda von Meck, the fiasco of his brief, unconsummated marriage, and his involvement in a homosexual subculture that simultaneously fascinated and repelled him. Drawing on Russian sources, the author refutes the theory that Tchaikovsky's death in 1893 at age 53 was a suicide forced upon him by a conspiracy of former classmates. "The story of a soul finding itself," this remarkable book casts only an indirect light on the relationship between Tchaikovsky's life and art, as the author omits extended discussion of the music. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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