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On Russian Music$
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Richard Taruskin

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780520249790

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520249790.001.0001

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Pathetic Symphonist

Pathetic Symphonist

Chaikovsky, Russia, Sexuality, and the Study of Music

(p.76) 6 Pathetic Symphonist
On Russian Music

Richard Taruskin

University of California Press

This chapter produces a research on the life of Pyotr Ilyich Chaikovsky as symphonist and the controversy surrounding the composer's alleged suicide. As Chaikovsky gained fame as a composer, eventually becoming the most famous Russia had ever produced, his private life increasingly became the object of lewd speculation. To counter this, he had taken it into his head to marry, despite what Nina Berberova, his most mondaine biographer, liked to call his “complex sexuality.” The great fiasco that ensued left Chaikovsky a wedded bachelor for the rest of his life and made his secret, one which he had in common with Musorgsky, Balakirev, and sundry lesser fry, to confine matters only to Russian composers. His life was punctuated by personal crises and depression. Contributory factors include his mother's early death, his suppressed homosexuality, and the collapse of the one enduring relationship with the wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck. Chaikovsky's sudden death at the age of 53 is generally ascribed to cholera, but some attribute it to suicide.

Keywords:   Pyotr Ilyich Chaikovsky, alleged suicide, Nina Berberova, mondaine, Nadezhda von Meck

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