It's very easy and common to affirm or deny greatness to big names in art,
but very few cases have a proven argument of their superiority.
Tchaikovsky has been tested more thoroughly than any other composer. Hundreds
of critics during decades have attacked his art as feeble, superficial, hysterical,
malforned and so on... and the public, orchestras, conductors and great soloists
all over the world have kept him alive, and very much alive.
If Brahms or Bruckner or Mahler or Haydn or Mozart would have received
such comments nobody would care for them any more. In many ways their art
is held strongly by literature in their favor.
Only Tchaikovsky stands by his music's own qualities.
No wander Balanchine, a sincere Tchaikovsky admirer, in his ballet "Jewels"
with music of various authors representing gems: rubies, sapphires, etc.,
calls for "diamonds" entering the Tchaikovsky pieces, because diamonds are
unscratchable, and they are so because of the superiority of their precious
To trespass the boundaries of three centuries "unscratched" even if attacked
with all kinds of weapons is a definite proof of greatness, not only a subjective
I once heard this comparison: "His critics have proven to be the immense
shade projected by his colossal altitude".
Professor Alberto Saenz Enriquez
Prof. A. S. Enriquez is absolutely right. To criticise Tchaikovsky is
as ludicrous as criticise other World's great: Shakespeare, Michelangelo,
Confucius, Einstein, Verdi, Copernicus and so on.
If those who dare to criticise UP. Tchaikovsky genuinely believe that
they deserve recognition, I can suggest to them a simple test: write a
I agree with Prof. Enriquez in that Tchaikovsky's greatness has been
tested greatly in the past century plus. But it serves to remind you, that
those composers that you mentioned—Brahms, Bruckner, Mozart, Haydn and Mahler, all have been and will be regarded in the same realm as
Tchaikovsky, as all of their music is fantastic, and all of it has been
similarly tested- whether by the public eye, by their friends and
colleagues, or by themselves (specifically in Bruckner's case).
However, I am willing to be and will continue to be critical of
Tchaikovsky's music and life for the pure sake of academic discourse. I am
not willing to accept, with a blind faith, the purity and strength of his
music, although in my heart I feel as if his music is some of the best
ever written. I am not willing to accept it because if you asked me why
his music is so great, I could not give you an adequate or
detail-supported answer. So please forgive me Prof. Enriquez for finding
your logic a bit fallacious, and please allow me to remain the devil's
advocate. Thank you.
John A. Miller
I have noticed that in his reply to Prof. A. Enriquez ' statement on
how great Tchaikovsky's music is, John Miller carefully avoids dealing
with a challenge I have issued to him as well as to any other "critics" of
the composer : write a greater music.
The vast majority of Tchaikovsky "critics" abuse the situation that the
composed is in another world and unable to give all of them a fitting
reply. There is nothing new about this socio-psychological anomaly. Back
in ancient Greece there lived a man, named Herostratus. His main
occupation was to be good for nothing. He had however an insatiable crave
for fame. And the only way he in his primitive mind could satisfy his
ambitions was a destruction of a temple.
Even in our days, it does not take a great mind to cause a destruction.
So as those who can not build, often destroy. Modern days critics,
particularly those who have no scruples to pick on mighty genius, remind
me that ill-famous individual with hypertrophic ambition, but with
inability to do anything useful.
I'm reminded of the old joke- "Those who can't do, teach, and those who
can't teach, teach gym". You're absolutely right in that I did not face
your challenge. I didn't for a simple reason- I can't. I'll never be able
to create a music such as Tchaikovsky's. I feel as you do in that
Tchaikovsky's music is of such elegance, beauty and passion that it should
be treated with a great deal of respect and frankly, a great deal of honor
Although I feel that this discussion might digress from this forums
focus on Tchaikovsky and to something broader, I wish to make this point
more clear. I'm a young man who is still learning about who Tchaikovsky is
as a composer, as a musician, as a friend, as a lover, as a man and so on.
I feel that if I approach Tchaikovsky's life from a 'ne'er-do-wrong' point
of view, where Tchaikovsky's music is the quintessential staple of
classical music-completely flawless in form and fashion, I will never
completely and truly understand who he was.
So, in defense of myself- I, as a researcher, always strive for the
utmost objectivity and unbiased view of Tchaikovsky. Using your
Herostratus analogy, I am not aiming to destroy the temple of Tchaikovsky,
I'm aiming to understand it's structure, design and context. So, please
forgive me if my opinions in this forum maybe a bit unfounded or unstable-
I present criticisms of Tchaikovsky as a scientist changes variables in an
experiment. I test to see what is supported factually, and what seems to
be historically unsound. A perfect example- studying Tchaikovsky's scores,
it is very evident that Tchaikovsky was quite possibly the most gifted
melodist of the 19th century- or perhaps in all of classical music's
history. However, Tchaikovsky admits to having poor skills in melodic
By pointing out Tchaikovsky's characteristics- flaws and talents- music
historians find the holistic picture of the man. So to, when we read the
response of critics to his music, whether it be from a professional critic
who wrote a review of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto ("We see plainly the
savage vulgar faces, we hear curses, we smell vodka... Tchaikovsky's
Violin Concerto gives us for the first time the hideous notion that there
can be music that stinks to the ear." Why is this (fabulous) piece a
staple of violin literature today?), to one of his contemporaries who were
famous for ripping him a new one like Leopold Auer or Anton Rubinstein, to
a 'critic' on this site, the responses offer up either a question to be
answered, a comment to turn over in your head, or a piece to a puzzle.
So, it's not only important to question and challenge Tchaikovsky's
'proven' greatness so that we can fully understand just how great it is,
but it is important to question and challenge Tchaikovsky's 'proven'
greatness to convey to young people such as myself, and uninformed people,
such as myself, the facts, the legends, the myths and the questions that
many people have towards the great man-Tchaikovsky.
But in conclusion, allow me to ask you a question. It would be narrow
of me to think that you were even the slightest bit interested in the life
or times of Tchaikovsky. So when you listen to the Tchaikovsky's music,
what do you think about? What do you sense?
I apologize for not being able to produce a greater music. I wouldn't
want to. I'm very satisfied with that which I have been listening to :-).
Aren't you? Remember my question please.
John A. Miller
Mr Geidelberg's arguments that if you cannot write greater music than
Tchaikovsky you have no right to an opinion is specious and irrelevant.. A
critic and an artist are not the same. Just because I cannot write a bar
of music doesn't mean I dont know claptrap when I see it. What ever became
of discriminating listening. Such attitudes are more suited to school boys
who lack the knowledge of the greater world and wish to gain an easy
victory by arguing nonsense..I heartedly concur with Mr Miller when he
says we have the right and obligation to be good listeners and be able to
decide between the great and less great. As for Tchaikovsky's music it is
very uneven even by his own standards. There are those moreover who don't
even consider him to be a great composer. Some people should study music
history to get a glimmer of how those guided by the craft of musicology
grade this composer. I have never seen Tchaikovsky rated along side people
like Bach, Mozart or Beethoven...or even the lesser Schubert and Schumann...or the other great lights like Wagner, Bruckner, Brahms or Mahler...etc and you know there are musicians who do not even play
Tchaikovsky's works. And while I agree that everyone is entitled to his
opinion no one has a right to his facts.. We here at the forum should
respect each others views without having the feeling he or she alone has
the right and only answers. This also applies to Mr Enriquez's specious views
of undiluted adulation. So I ask you to be more generous to the
standpoints of others and not be so eager for the attack.. Have a good day
Thanks to all for their contributions. However, I think we have taken
this discussion to its limit, and this topic is now closed.