Home > Forum > Two Questions

Two Questions

I want to understand two points which I did not understand very well from some written sources.

  1. Did Tchaikovsky meet Clara Schumann once in his childhood?

  2. It is mentioned about some musical trick which Tchaikovsky made during childhood, with transition of the key of some music. Do you have any knowledge about this, and if yes, what is this exactly?

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Levent Özübek

Clara Schumann did tour the major cities of Russia in 1844, when Tchaikovsky was just 4 years old, but there is no evidence to show that they actually met. The Tchaikovsky family were then living in the town of Votkinsk in Vyatka province, which was a long way from the musical centres of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

We know a great deal about Tchaikovsky's later encounters with the leading musical figures of his time (including Brahms, Dvorák, Grieg, etc.), but it appears that he never met Clara Schumann. This is all the more surprising because she remained very active in the same circles until the last years of her life, and she eventually outlived Tchaikovsky by three years.

I am sorry not to be able to help with your other question about Tchaikovsky's piano technique, but perhaps another poster to this forum will have the answer ...

Brett Langston

My attention has been drawn to the following passage from Gerald Norris’s excellent documentary study Stanford, the Cambridge Jubilee, and Tchaikovsky (Newton Abbot, 1980), which towards the end confirms that Tchaikovsky did in fact meet Clara Schumann in his youth:

“Brahms had also attended a rehearsal during Tchaikovsky’s first tour a year earlier, listening to the First Suite in Leipzig on 3 January 1888. In his diary of the tour, Tchaikovsky wrote that Brahms ‘made no encouraging remarks; I was told he was very pleased by the first movement, but did not praise the rest, especially the “Marche Miniature”.’ The Germans tended to dislike the march; one critic called it ‘a mere pattern of sounds’; another said it was ‘tea-caddy-decoration style of art applied to music’. The first movement, Introduction and Fugue, won many admirers, though, including Clara Schumann, who had heard the work six years earlier in Frankfurt, entering in her diary on 3 February 1882, ‘Suite by Tschaikowsky; a good deal of talent and ability; the national flavour which runs through it often makes it interesting, but only in places. The first movement – introduction and fugue – interested me most, it seemed to me the most finished.’ Clara had previously been entertained by Tchaikovsky when, as a student at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, he played the flute in one of Kuhlau’s chamber works that was featured in a musical evening welcoming her to the capital in March 1864.” (p. 335)

For the latter information Norris is drawing on the reminiscences by Herman Laroche entitled “P. I. Tchaikovsky at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory”, which are available (in Russian only) at the Belcanto Tchaikovsky pages:

In the relevant passage Laroche recalls how Tchaikovsky studied the flute under Cesare Ciardi so that he could play in the student orchestra that Anton Rubinstein had decided to set up: “Tchaikovsky took part most satisfactorily in performances of symphonies by Haydn and other works in the standard student repertoire, and on one occasion, he performed, together with our fellow-students Pugni [one of the sons of the ballet composer], Gorshkov and Pomerantsev, a quartet for four flutes by Kuhlau at a soirée which was adorned by the presence of Clara Schumann.” This passage was also cited by Philip Taylor in his book Anton Rubinstein. A Life in Music (Bloomington, 2007), p. 105.

Christopher Robinson
27/08/2012 20:58

This discussion is closed and has been archived, but you are welcome to try our new forum at:

Please note that we are not responsible for the content of external web-sites

This page was last updated on 05 November 2013