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One of World's Greatest Mysteries...

I refer, of course, to the death of Tchaikovsky.

Having said that, I was wondering if there is a move afoot, (either in Russia or abroad) to have his body exhumed and arrive, conclusively, at the cause of his death.

I know this strikes some as almost sacreligious and preposterous. But Beethoven's remains were exhumed, (twice!), Shubert, etc. The list goes on and on.

Finally-- and maybe this goes without saying-- the true cause of Tchaikovsky's death has to be one of the greatest mysteries of the world. It rates, I suggest, riight up there with the identity of Jack The Ripper and the construction of the Egyptian Pyramids.

Seems such a shame THIS one is so, obviously, and easily, resolvable. And as far as I know-- not a suggestion has been made or proposed.

As always, enjoy this site.

Much obliged,

George Boyd

17/10/2011 11:58

Dear Mr. Boyd, Tchaikovsky's Last Days: A Documentary Study (9780198165965): Alexander Poznansky: Books

I personally would not be adverse to exhuming the body....but I think we have a long way to go before that would happen...and at this point I don't think it even necessary....I have read all the conspiracy theories that have come out regarding this first not having enough evidence to the contrary I went along with the theory of the "court of honor" even tho I had reservations about it....but when the above book came out in 1996 I felt the matter concluded, that the composer had indeed died of the consequences of having contracted cholera not of his own least no one has come forward marshalling the evidence to contradict the findings of Poznansky's book...

And so at this point I believe the theory of the suicide has no legs...its all based on hearsay....whereas in the above biography Poznansky explores all the evidence he could find on the last two weeks of the composer's life which he spent in St. Petersburg....and there is a lot of evidence from that I would strongly suggest you get a copy of this book and read for yourself how all the evidence points away from suicide....can we go back to November of 1893 and actually know with certainty that he died of natural causes? I think sum all that we know from the evidence we have is that he had the misfortune of drinking contaminated water or food containing the cholera bacteria, in all likelihood from those restaurants which he frequented while St. Petersburg....the sanitary conditions left a lot to be desired as the people drank from the same river into which had been expelled human wastes....the boiling of the water was a necessary prerequisite but in this case someone was negligent...

I am reminded of all the conspiracy theories regarding Kennedy's death...yet the evidence was lacking to give those contradictory reports least as far as I'm concerned....and further Tchaikovsky had world wide celebrity and in Russia he was the third most famous man after the Tsar and seems unlikely that the authorities would be coconspirators in seeking the demise of a national treasure...and why would a man end his life when he had achieved such success and he was so pleased with his last endeavor the Pathetique?....and so I think we can leave this matter to rest....

Best Wishes,

AL Gasparo

23/10/2011 20:35

Hello Mr. Boyd,

I'd like to point out that if the body of Tchaikovsky was exhumed and tested for the reason(s) of death there still would be loose ends. Let me explain.

If Tchaikovsky did indeed die of cholera then, yes, traces of that can still be found, however, we still will never know for sure if he died of cholera from drinking the unboiled glass of water on purpose or not - or if it was someone's mistake (i.e. waiter who gave him the fatal glass of water). The suicide by court of honor situation always made no sense to me and seemed extremely uncivilized; even for that period of time. We will never know for sure if that so-called court of honor ever existed and if they did, if it played a role in Tchaikovsky dying. So, as you can see it'd be very hard to come to a conclusion that makes 100% sense and confirms what happened to Tchaikovsky. Conspiracy theories (and theorists) tend to be erected upon mysterious circumstances that surround a famous persons death. There are only so many logical explanations in regards to how Tchaikovsky perished.

M. Svoboda-Britz

24/10/2011 01:45

I still would like to point out the manifold evidence available and the thorough job Poznansky did in his ''Tchaikovsky's Last Days"....and I would urge all those interested in this matter to get a copy of that book....and decide for yourself once and for all whether there is any logic or good evidence behind the suicide theories....for example Yuri, Tchaikovsky's nephew stated many years after the event that he was there and witnessed Tchaikovsky ordering a glass of unboiled water in Leiner's Restaurant....whereas Poznansky posits that Yuri was not there and gives his is also questionable what Modest wrote that during lunch the first day of illness that Tchaikovsky had drunk a glass or water from the tap against the pleas of Modest...the composer was already ill from upset stomach that morning and already was adverse to eating lunch....did Modest who was not always very honest want to get his moment of fame by declaring his involvement in the process of the composer's demise? For example it is well known that Modest wrote that the morning after the first performance of the Pathetique that it was Modest who gave the composer the suggestion of naming the Sixth Symphony the "Pathetique" whereas it has been shown that the composer already had told his publisher Jurgenson of the wish to have his symphony so named a month earlier...this we know from a letter from Jurgenson....regarding the "court of honor" and the statement of the Tsar himself that the composer must die for courting the nephew of a Count Stenbok...Poznansky states that there was no Count Stenbok....Poznansky who spent a lot of time in the Tchaikovsky Museum researching all the resources there available and other places has a very well documented account of all the time Tchaikovsky spent in St. Petersburg during his two week visit...primarily to rehearse and conduct the premier of the "Pathetique"...Finally reason must triumph in the face of all the evidence Poznansky brings up and further more no one who professed the suicide theory has come up with a riposte to this work of 224 pages of detailed documented information of the composer's last two weeks in St. Petersburg which came out in 1996....when a I see an equally well documented work by those who hold the suicide theory then I will open myself up to other possibilities...but none such has appeared to contest the Poznansky work...Yes, of course the suicide conspiracy started to come out shortly after the composer's death....why did he die so suddenly....did not the Pathetique prefigure his premature demise with all its angst and dirge like finale...surely something must be afoot that the authorities must be hiding from us....bring the gay thing out and the whole thing started to snowball out of control....I repeat again...Tchaikovsky was an international celebrity and beloved by the people and honored by the Tsar...Would Tchaikovsky's hard earned fame now be tossed aside in a mindless death? more about his life and circumstances....he loved life and cherished his fame and so did the public at large...he was busy with many plans for the one would want him dead,,,,not this treasure of the Russian people...

Best Wishes to All,

AL Gasparo

24/10/2011 09:25

The purpose of an exhumation would be to determine the presence if any of arsenic....according to those who hold the '' court of honor' theory Tchaikovsky was tried by members of his class of the School of the urging of the Tsar.....the judgement was death by arsenic....soo Tchaikovsky went out to an apothecary to make the purchase....

The name of the one who reported the incident to the Tsar was a certain Count Stenbock-Fermor....not Stenbok......if cholera was found and one believed in the theory that the composer drank unboiled water deliberately....that would not close the theory of the suicide by cholera...nor would it give a reason for such a suicide...however I think for the reasons already given that the suicide in any form does not have the evidence and documentation to give it credence outside of hearsay....which is weak and contradictory...

AL Gasparo

24/10/2011 10:40

There is nothing mysterious about Tchaikovsky's death...his stay in St Petersburg, illness and death is well documented...we know where and how he spent his time...except for a brief period.....Poznansky examines all the suicide conspiracy theories and exposes their short comings and where and how they fall short....also the day after Tchaikovsky got sick Modest went to the Police who then went to the apartment and made sure precautionary measures were taken to prevent the spread of the disease......there was no least three doctors were there to administer to the victims needs......the doctors determined that it was nine in the first evening his body was wrapped in a cloth soaked in a solution of mercuric chloride...the inner coffin made of metal was soldered and the outer made of oak was screwed shut...all this was done to contain the the end his kidneys failed and he died of uraemia and emphesyma....he fell ill on November 2 ,,,he died at three in the morning of November 6, 1893....The Tsar paid for the funerary expenses as he was told the family was strapped for cash....

AL Gasparo

24/10/2011 12:05

Alexander Poznansky will never be able to silence the dedicated conspiracy-theorists completely. They're like the ideologists of the 1940's - devoted heart and soul to the perversion of logic. If the facts don't fit their wretched little theory, then it's the facts that have to be changed, not the theory. They're a 'pathetic' irrelevance.

Michael Porter

25/10/2011 07:55

To those who have not yet read Poznansky's biography on "Tchaikovsky's Last Days' I suggest you turn to "Tchaikovsky: A Life'' on our own Tchaikovsky-Research home page....if you click and scroll down to "Epilogue" you will find a detailed account by Poznansky, the leading world scholar on Tchaikovsky, on an examination of all the suicide theories that have come about since the composers short the suicide theories simply have no foundation in fact and all the evidence we have of that period points to that conclusion....for me the matter is settled..

AL Gasparo

25/10/2011 19:15

Be that is it may we have a lot more detailed information on Tchaikovsky's life now, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening and making available to the public records that been hidden and undisclosed till recent times....this must perforce influence the way we see the composer....all I ask of those concerned in this is that your read Poznansky's "Tchaikovsky's Last Days'...and arrive at your own conclusions....and that the holding of certain views without examination and review simply doesn't hold water...those writers of the conspiracy theory simple did not have access to those documents and so they let their fancy dictate highly unlikely scenarios,,,do you remember the Kennedy assassination? how every possible view was put forward.?....that it was the right wing, the left wing, the anticastrorites, the procastrorites, the right wing military, the mafia, Russia, the grassy knoll....such a confusion and conflict of ideas that in time neutralized each other out simply because there was not the evidence to back them up....These upholders of the conspiracy theory wrote their books before Poznansky came out with his books,,,, I believe that reason and rationality will triumph in the end,,,given the exposure to new material...and as I said before since 1996 no book has come out contradicting with a plethora of detail the findings of the Poznansky work,,,,that shows me that they dont have a sufficent new body of material to confront Poznanasky's skilled, in depth, scholarly work,,,,people will believe what they choose to believe but at least be aware of the opposite point of view done in such a thorough manner....

Best Wishes,

AL Gasparo

26/10/2011 21:53

If you go to You Tube and check out "Tchaikovsky: Solitude - Stokowski/Philadelphia'' you will come upon an elegant arrangement for orchestra by Stokowski based on Tchaikovsky's last song "Again as before alone"....number six of his last songs Opus 73....completed in May of 1893....note how close the mood and melody are similar to the ambience of the Pathetique it could almost be an addenda to the Adagio Lamentoso of that work....the symphony was completely sketched out between February and March of that year....then it was set aside and the composer spent the month of August in orchestrating the work.......the month of April was spent in composing the 18 piano pieces Opus 72....none of those pieces reflect the mood of his last symphony to any degree.....but are I believe his best works in that genre...after this Tchaikovsky's last work was in September of that year where he began his arrangement of the aborted Sixth Symphony of 1892 into a piano concerto, only the first movement being finished before his untimely demise...

In May - June of 1893 Tchaikovsky went to Cambridge, England to receive an honorary doctorate in music...he also conducted several of his works in his stay successfully...July he spent visiting with friends and relatives....early in September he attended the German premiere of Iolanthe with Mahler conducting...if he hadn't died in November in Petersburg he would have been on his way to give the premier of the Pathetique in Moscow....other than that his schedule was busy for the following year with concerts in various parts of Europe and perhaps a revisit to the States which was also one of his plans..

So to those who say that in writing the Pathetique the composer was deliberately writing his own requiem and farewell to life one can see that this was not the case....and that he was busy with other works after he sketched out his last symphony...and most of them were not about gloom and doom...and he had ahead of himself a busy schedule....

Best Wishes,

AL Gasparo

05/11/2011 23:59

From Tchaikovsky - Research under Anna Merkling (1830 - 1911) we get this bit of information from his favorite for myself I wonder if he really said all these all sounds too pat....still the views presented would tie into the symphony he planned to create about ''Life" other instances Tchaikovsky was very reluctant to divulge his programme for the ''Pathetique" to anyone...he said "let them guess it who can"....Anna Merkling sewed together the ''portieres'' or drapes at his own request for his home in Klin, which are still hanging in the Tchaikovsky Museum house.......

''In her memoirs of the composer Aleksandra Panaeva-Kartsova reported the following conversation which took place between Tchaikovsky and his beloved cousin shortly after the concert in Saint Petersburg on 16/28 October 1893 at which he had conducted the première of his Sixth Symphony:

"After the concert he saw home his cousin Anna Petrovna Merkling, with whom he had been on very friendly terms ever since his childhood. She was one of the first to appreciate him; she worshipped his talent, and he would constantly share with her his impressions, thoughts, and plans. On this occasion he asked her if she had understood what his new symphony expressed. She replied that the impression she had was that in it he had described his own life.

—Yes, you've guessed right!—he exclaimed joyfully and started to explain it to her—The first movement is childhood and vague strivings after music. The second is youth and merry high society life. The third is the struggle for existence and the achievement of glory. And as for the last movement,—he added cheerfully,—that is the 'De profundis', with which we all end, but for me that is still a long way ahead; I feel so much energy in me, so many creative impulses; I know that I shall yet create a lot of good things, and even better than those I have created so far".

Best Wishes,

AL Gasparo

19/11/2011 19:58

In going back to the said reminiscences after the premiere of the Pathetique as per Anna seems to me that the first movement says a lot more than mere "childhood and vague strivings after music"...whatever that music says is catastrophic to say the least...and far from childhood me it is more like a cry of pain coming from the whole of creation...the second movement is far from "youth and merry society life" is more like a sober reflection and even echoes in its center the gloom of the last movement....the third may indeed celebrate a hard won "glory"....the end can indeed be perceived as a requiem and a reminder of our I'm wondering if this conversation ever took place...another instance perhaps where a friend or relative seeks to have a share in the composer's fame and glory?...where indeed did Tchaikovsky go after the premiere of the Pathetique.... I would have imagined he would have gone carousing and dining with his friends and relatives to celebrate at one of their favorite haunts...Though I don't see it mentioned in the various biographies I've read on the subject...perhaps Mr. Poznansky can illuminate us regarding this matter...

AL Gasparo

19/11/2011 21:45

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