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Intimacies of Tchaikovsky

Many great men have suffered an homosexual condition: Plato, Leonardo, Newton, Oscar Wilde, and possibly Kant, and so others.

But geniuses must not be judged by their intimate lfie but by their precious legacy.

Tchaikovsky's music is astonishingly beautiful and capable of penetrating the depths of human soul as no other composer in history.

I think we must not insist so much in his human weakness.

It is not a matter of to forgive or absolve a genius. That is only God's concern.

We must smiply admire, respect and be grateful to these great men for the invaluable treasure inherited to us, not minding stubbornly in affairs that can only damage their sublime immensity.

Professor Alberto Saenz Enriquez

It is difficult to deny that during the last century or so, Tchaikovsky's reputation as a composer has suffered just because he was homosexual. Some critics seem to have believed that confessing a liking for his music would be equivalent to condoning practices which were often considered to be immoral, or even illegal. In his book Stanford, the Cambridge Jubilee and Tchaikovsky (1980), Gerald Norris cites a number of examples where Western critics had abruptly reversed their evaluations of the composer's music, once his homosexuality became known. Terms such as "overblown", "hysterical", "neurotic", and even "sick" started to appear in critiques of his works

Clearly the music had remained the same, but for some critics it now became almost shameful to confess to liking Tchaikovsky's music, and even now in the early 21st century, this view still persists in some quarters. An alternative and exactly opposite viewpoint can also be encountered: that Tchaikovsky's music should be celebrated precisely because he was homosexual, and his music reflects the agony of the persecution that his "condition" condemned him to endure.

It seems to me that both these extreme viewpoints are falling into the trap of distorting history by imposing today's culture and values are upon past events. We must try to forget what we think we know, and re-evaluate as objectively as possible the surviving historical sources, as, for example, Alexander Poznansky has sought to do in his new article Tchaikovsky: A Life. The picture of the man that emerges from such investigations is quite different from the grotesque caricatures that are seen in the worst kinds of fictionalised dramas and biographies. Far from being an hysterical, neurotic misanthrope, Tchaikovsky turns out to be a remarkably well-balanced individual, whose opinions and judgements were highly respected by his contemporaries, who could be gregarious with his family and friends, and who had a great empathy for people, despite his own innate shyness and sensitiviity.

There will always be people for whom an artist's personality (or at least their preconceptions of it) prevents them from fully appreciating their creations. But should we really be denigrating or promoting an artistic work on the perceived virtues or foibles of its creator—particularly as it's usually impossible for everyone to agree on what constitutes a virtue or foible?

I believe that Tchaikovsky's music has stood the test of time precisely because he was the most human of composers, with a gift for depicting our agones and ecstasies, our flaws and successes, and everything inbetween. Quite a remarkable achievement, you might think, for the son of a mining engineer from a remote Russian province. And if, on occasion, the expression of such human emotions confronts us with our own inadequacies, then surely that is our problem, and not Tchaikovsky's.

P. Davydov

I find it absolutely amazing that people should judge Tchaikovsky's music by his sexuality after all it not as if he was the only homosexual composer. Britten, Bernstein (bisexual) and probably many others, surely this shouldn't condemn their music to oblivion and I'm sure most right minded people would not think that way.

Ian Maxwell

Here is a very interesting article about Tchaikovsky and his "alleged homosexuality".

I don't know what Tchaikovsky scholars think about it, but it really makes sense to me.

Don't believe that I can't stand the truth, I would be the first one to be happy if I could make sure of it. One should remember that Tchaikovsky's homosexuality is only an hypothesis. And even if he was homesexual, does it really change something today?

Please keep in mind that there are millions of gays and lesbians all around the world (you probably know one—a friend, a neighbour, a collegue, a cousin—even if you're not aware of it, and you might even enjoy his or her company). You don't choose to be homosexual (though you can deny it). And it's not a sickness. It's just a difference. Aren't we all different? Tolerance, tolerance, tolerance...

Simon Deschenes

This article you refer to doesn't make much sense, sense since it published before 1991, when the first serious and scholarly studies on Tchaikovsky's life finally appeared in English. I'm thinking of books on the composer's life published by an American scholar Alexander Poznansky and then by the Russian scholar Valery Sokolov, where they established Tchaikovsky's homosexuality beyond any doubt, and restored parts of his letters that had been previously been suppressed.

Anything published on the composer's private life before Poznansky's and Sokolov's books is just really just guess work. See Poznansky's contributions to this site in the Forum and Features sections.

Gregory Hutchinson

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This page was last updated on 05 November 2013