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Tchaikovsky and the Flute


Tchaikovsky has studied flute in the class with Ciardi, at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Tchaikovsky it became his friend and accompanied him at times as a pianist, in live performance:

Ciardi you have defined one of the biggest flutists of his century, perhaps the biggest.

Tchaikovsky wrote many pieces of great beauty for flute, and we know the project about a concerto for the instrument.

Do you know for how long Tchaikovsky has studied the flute and what was his real skills on the instrument?


Antonio Garganese
09/02/2013 18:45

All I can recall off hand is that Tchaikovsky learned to play the flute in order to play in the school orchestra at the St. Petersburg conservatory...his father also played the flute...and his mother the piano and those days you had to create your own entertainment...pre phonograph and radio...

Albert Gasparo
13/02/2013 01:20

And as far as I know his flute playing did not extend beyond his time at conservatory in Petersburg...1865...

Albert Gasparo
13/02/2013 02:34

I answer to my own question with this information I hope useful to fans of the argument.

"Tchaikovsky he studied flute for two years, reaching a level of preparation discreet. Rather, as reported by Leonardo De Lorenzo, in his truly original book "My complete story of the Flute" (Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, 1992, p. 282 ), he played the flute beautifully, and would also have much loved this musical instrument".

(Rossella Fabbri, "Cesare Ciardi. Un flautista toscano alla corte dello Zar", Libreria Musicale Italiana, Lucca 1999, p. 52)

Fabbri also writes (I summarize) that Rubinstein he called as a teacher Ciardi, for the chair of flute. Rubinstein himself had organized the curriculum that each student had to do. The students had to participate in the training of staff of the orchestra of the Conservatory. Abounded the students of string instruments, while those were scarce of wind instruments. Rubinstein suggested to a group of pupils in the course of composition and piano, to also study a wind instrument.

Tchaikovsky, who was enrolled in the class composition, having been exonerated for excellence the study of piano and (in the absence of financial resources), he was persuaded by scholarships, to enroll in the flute (also his father played this instrument as an amateur ).

Ciardi and Tchaikovsky socialized for several years.

Fabbri, citing David Brown (1978) and Alja Rachmanova (1972) says that Tchaikovsky performed in public as a flautist, both in concerts of the Conservatory, and in small ensembles, and he seems to have also participated in the execution of a quartet flute written by Kuhlau, in the presence of Clara Schumann.

Brown in "Tchaikovsky, The Early Years ..." (I always quote from Fabbri, p. 53) also reports news about a performance of Tchaikovsky together with Ciardi, Piotr Ilyich at the piano, in an evening of music by the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlova.

Many biographers write details about the studies of flute made by Tchaikovsky (J. M. Orlova, "Tschaikowski", 1978).

Fabbri writes:

"In the special book, though not always reliable, made by Fortunato Sconzo,"Il Flauto ed i Flautisti", (Hoepli, Milan 1930, p. 139), on the biographies of the most famous flutists is also included the name of Tchaikovsky:

Melodramatic extremely original, author of treatises on harmony, and teacher at the Moscow Conservatory, he studied flute with our great Ciardi, at the Conservatory of St. Petersburg".

In the book made by Rossella Fabbri speaks of the importance of Ciardi, as the teacher, as a theorist and European performer and teacher for the Russian school of flute.

Ciardi was born June 28, 1818 in Florence, the first son of an obscure little seamstress and a young painter from Prato, Giuseppe Ciardi.

The couple would have had more children, the last two they too they studied music.

Giulio, violin (but abandoned him for an ecclesiastical career), Attilio (1834) after completing his studies in Florence piano and composition, he performed in a duo with his brother Cesare. He became a teacher and composer.

(from the book written by Rossella Fabbri)

A street in the city of Prato, since 1951, remembers him (but does not exist instead a dedication for the most famous flautist his brother, Cesare!).

Kind regards (and excuse my english and typing errors).

Antonio Garganese
14/02/2013 13:17

In the article on Aleksandr Khimichenko in the People section of this website there is an interesting extract from Khimichenko’s reminiscences of Tchaikovsky which testifies to the composer’s lifelong interest in the flute and to its possibilities as an instrument.

Luis Sundvkist
16/02/2013 12:39

Let me add something else to this discussion...the heyday of the flute would have been in the time of Bach or Handel....Mozart also wrote a few pieces for flute or where the flute played a dominant role but after Mozart who are the composers who wrote specific pieces for the flute let alone masterpieces?...the flute was pretty much a forgotten instrument, composers specialized in works for violin or piano...or chamber works featuring strings and piano...some like Brahms wrote chamber works for clarinet....Mozart a concerto for clarinet....but it pretty much stops there..a few years ago we had a flutist James Galway play on public broadcasting...with orchestra accompaniment...virtually everything he played were transcriptions from some other instruments.....the flute plays a role in the orchestra..that's about it...later composers like Debussy wrote pieces in which the flute plays a prominent role...but it never regained its renown as of old....certainly in Tchaikovsky's time the flute was relegated to the orchestra...and there it you give praise to this or that flautist yet where are the masterworks for that instrumentalist to play?...

Thank You,

Albert Gasparo
09/03/2013 03:48

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