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Tchaikovsky's Nemesis

Fellow participants:

I forgot to mention this when we were on the Movie thread, that the primary reason for Tchaikovsky's horrible showing at the movies (the BioDrama's) is that you can't nail down a antagonist in his life. Just in my very rudimentary contemplations of his life, it's hard to nail down ONE.

His Wife?

The Five?

That weasel brother of his, (Modest)

His sexual proclivities?

I would be interested to hear from all of you regarding this, but you get to pick ONE and ONLY ONE!

Difficult, eh? See the almost insurmountable problem?

Shaeffer was successful with "Amadeus" because he nailed Mozart's nemesis down to...Salieri.

Who's my Salieri? Cui? people-- when it comes to plays/movies are very simple-minded.

In other words, the bad guy has to wear black and the good, guy, like the Lone Ranger is dressed in white.

Just trying to nail him down... it's all so complicated, one thing of which I'm certain. Is the man (Tchaikovsky) had a will of steel. nervous breakdown? If we had to lift his burden on our shoulders, many-a knees would have been quaking, I can tell you that!

So-- I'm confronted with what to do. I can write a script with CUI as my Salieri-- but to people in the know-- (most of us!)-- they would say it's a profound oversimplification. yet I'm writing a script NOT an encylopedia! Don't have time for too many Salieri's.

Hope you weight-in on this, Mr. Gasparo. Just pick one, (of the above).

As always, I am much obliged for the opportunity to discuss and clarify my opinions/thoughts on my favorite composer with people who think same.


George Boyd
Montreal, Canada
04/03/2013 01:04

To answer your question Mr Boyd..and your comments are always entertaining...I admit that Amadeus was a fine movie...ruined somewhat by making Mozart look like a simpleton whose only interest outside of music was jokes scatological...Salieri in real life had nothing to do with Mozart's was simply a fabrication brought about I imagine because Salieri was Mozart's rival at the court of Emperor Joseph II...that was not Salieri's fault but the fault of the poor taste of the court that favored a second rate composer over Mozart...if anything Salieri admired Mozart's next to last opera "The Magic Flute" and praised it...further more he helped in bringing up Mozart's two surviving children...sure Salieri made good copy and a worthy rival to down trodden was all about drama...good versus evil..but to Salieri seducing Mozart's wife Costanza this was pure fiction...the movies good parts was the direction, the photography and the holding of your attention with all the good singing from his operas which were shown put on I havent seen this in a long while put phony as it was it beat by a mile all the other Tchaikovsky movies we have discussed so far. There was enough truth in it to counter act the far as Cui was concerned do you think he was such an important character in Tchaikovsky's lousy music critic?..unless you want to make him one of course..Amadeus was a distortion of Mozart's life but a highly entertaining one...the same cannot be said of the Tchaikovsky bios we have discussed on this Forum...the long and short of it was that Schaeffer was a good playwright and those others were poor script writers..I dont know if this answers your question or Tchaikovsky had no nemises as such..he certainly had his share of successes and failures...esp if you were going to look for a nemesis...its character..character is our fate and Shakespeare says in Julius Caesar, "it is not in our stars but in our selves that we are underlings.'''or words to that effect..Amadeus was make believe...but good make held our attention from start to if you want to make up a nemises for our composer that is up to you..its whatever works Mr. Boyd...whatever works...T's nemesis...his sexual proclivities for one..which held him back and went a long way in shaping his character...his shyness for one thing...a secret he had to keep to himself...that could be further searched and developed...


Albert Gasparo
05/03/2013 17:20

I do very much appreciate, Mr. Gasparo's notes on this thread. Finally, for all to see/read, is the crux of the matter.

I do indeed, realize salieri was not IN REALITY, Mozart's nemesis. However, for technical reasons, Schaeffer was forced to make it so.

It's just our composer had so many to chose from.

I don't think a writer, (or anyone for that matter) can exclusively explain it away due to his sexuality. His shyness?... yes!... his secrets?... yes!...

But, as I'm sure Schaeffer would tell us, "gentlemen-- you have to put "flesh and blood" on a nemesis or antagonist, or it just dosen't work, nor ring true.

Thus my "Tchaikovsky conundrum"...

And besides his sexual preferences, what about his wife? Was she a major antagonist in his, (Tchaikovsky's) journey?

I agree, I think solely blaming Cui would indeed come off as phoney and contrived, (in any script). After all, as you say, he was a lowly critic, but... a very powerful and influential one nonetheless. many a Broadway show hasve been brought down because of a "lowly critic."

Thanks for your help.

I'l just go back to pulling my hair out! (Hahahahahah!)

George Boyd
Montreal, Canada
21/03/2013 03:23

Well Mr. Boyd, do you really need a nemesis? Isn't it our character that is our destiny? Tchaikovsky in his last three symphonies touches upon his encounter with fate or destiny, yet he doesn't say what this "Sword of Democles" is regarding his fate. In the first two of these three symphonies the composer comes out at the end in triumph as if he had conquered this nemesis that had been harrowing him...In some reviews I've read on his last symphony Tchaikovsky seems to indicate that one is powerless in the face of fates unrelenting sway...all the downward motions of his motifs in the last symphony represent this fate...yet as Tchaikovsky himself said...yes the symphony has a program but let them guess it who Mr Boyd what is this fate that the composer is alluding to that is so all the Pathetique's last movement the composer seems to lie prostrate beneath its over weaning power..David Brown's last volume of his biographies of the composer underlines this the most...we know enough about his life even his intimate life to give us some clue as to what this was all for his wife, Antonina, it is true that this encounter with her did have a deleterious effect so much so that he would become ill should he receive a letter from her...but all in all Tchaikovsky went on living his life with its ups and downs as do the greater part of us...there were periods of fallowness....are we to blame this on his wife with whom he had very few encounters after their breakup?..some might....Antonina was a rather sad pathetic figure who ended up her days in a mental institution...she had three children after the breakup with the composer...she left them with a foundling hospital where they did not survive...she was not able to remarry as the composer refused to divorce her fearing a greater scandal should his well kept secrets come to light...if I were a writer here's how I would go about as much about the composer's life and work as possible...when you have completely imbued yourself with this personage...forget about everything you've read and just think of those issues that stand out most prominently in his life...since you have to limit yourself select the most salient elements of his makeup and character and take it from there...before you can write about anything you must know the subject thoroughly....the rest will take care of itself...I do not think it was poor Antonina that had a disruptive effect on the composers life but the flaws as to his character.....still the two aided and abetted one per the Pathetique the most powerful exposition of the power of fate is in the great climax of the first movement where the downward scale of the strings is accompanied by the trombones underlining this great indicates that fate has already won the battle...and so I will leave it like that.....

Best Wishes,

Albert Gasparo
22/03/2013 01:20


To answer Mr. Gasparo's first question. Conflict is the most vital component to any piece of dramatic art, and I'm sorry if I sound mean or condescending, But I can't have T. struggling against an opponent, called "Fate " in any movie or play. It just, simply, won't wash.

What does "Fate" look like for eample?

Is he or she-- fat, slim? White/black? Gay/Straight.... a true Nemesis of antagonist has to be, (please pardon em for Writing Course 101), Bigger then life, seeemingly invincible. (The most obvious example being Darth Vader of Shaeffer's... Salieri). Someone out there(Tchaikovsky) can quickly dispatch and stand triumphant, (like "ROCKY" the end).

And yes, I am fully aware that Pyotr was preoccupied with "Fate." Pyotr's not to be trusted either. Let's not forget this is teh guy that married a woman because her actions mirrored a fictitous character in an opera. He wasn't fighting "fate." That may have been his war-- NOT his battle. And, sir, if you've studied Pyotr's cahracter a little bit, you would realize he was not one to simply wash his hands and resigne himself to "Fate. He was a fighter! When are peopel on these pages, goinf to get thet through their thick skulls. Pyotr Tchaikovsky was a warrior, tough as nails! (Thank God for him!). "Oh, let me swallow the water and die, Fate will take over." That's no the Pyotr Tchaikovsky I know.

Indeed no.

His piano Concerto's not good enough.

He writes another gem! (Maybe they'll get it this time-- Rubenstein, so-called, "Friend)

Mr. Gaspero, I appeal to your common sense, with all these so-called friends of Pyotr's-- does he need an enema? (Hahahah!)

YEt.. they were all such good "friends" the writers on this site, assure me.

Pyotr loathed 1812-- published it anyway!

Pyotr Tchaikovsky, after all is said and done, was all about you and I-- the audience. What truly makes me sad, that even AFTER New York and Cambridge how could he possible have thought he failed us? I think he died thinking himself a failure. (Impossible, " your going to reply. Hey! I point to the above example, (his marriage) Anything's possible with this guy).

All this crap about "fate," I suggest, was Pyotr's ruse. He was so accostumed to putting people off the scent that, again, I suggest, it was his second nature.

In the end, I think it's all the things I mentioned in my previous note, (and more, I bet, if you look closelyly). His (T's) ultimate battle I surmise, was against himself. Can't have that on stage unless I lie and make Tchaikovsky have an identical twin! (Hahahahah!) they already had a set of twins in that family. To tell you the truth, Mr. Gaspero, (why haven't the others jumped in on this thread? Too difficult forgot-- I am SO pedestrian!). I don't trust that Modest either, whom I've much maligned in these pages, as I'm sure you'll note. If anyone was to poison Pyotr, it was Modest!

Finally-- if there is to be a drama-- let there be a world war, some humongous conflict! The bigger the conflict, the more the success th piece. Listen to Pyotr himself, (Romeo & Juliet) "Fate," does absolutely nothing for me as a dramaturg, (I need something substantial, something tactile). "Fate," as an antagonist would produce the same feeling in you on Opening night, (trust me!). I know he complained of hearing non-stop, music in his hed as a child. I can easily make his nemesis, (a mental disorder-- His attempted suiide etc.)-- but Vincent vanGogh has already been done. Be there, done that.


Thanks for the help!

Much appreciated,

George Boyd
23/03/2013 23:52

P.S.: I'm getting good at this hair-pulling business, Mr. Gasparo! (Hahahahah!)

P.P.S: I love this site! It's the best. Where can I buy a T-shirt ?(sorry, I also drink beer! and love the Montreal Canadiens)

Mr Boyd , I would be the first to agree with you that "conflict" or drama as I would call it is a vital ingredient to a movie or play...but let's review this "fate" once again...T wrote his most powerful music to the power of fate in his life i.e. the Pathetique....but doesn't explain it...fate was a recurring issue in his music aside from the last three symphonies..and if as in his last work he makes this the all encompassing element of the work then we must listen...however this by itself will not produce good dramaturgy...I am not a dramatist or a drama critic tho I have read my fair share of plays in my day..but why does this theme keep recurring?...what is fate...."a power that supposedly predetermines events"...from the Latin, "Fatum"...that which has been spoken"..(.from my dictionary)...the Fourth Symphony begins with fates call in the T writes to Madame von Meck.."Destiny, that fateful force which impedes the impulse toward fulfillment, which jealously ensures that prosperity and peace are never complete and cloudless, which hangs overhead like a sword of is invincible and you will never vanquish it..all that we can do is subject ourselves and vainly lament"...but the symphony ends in a joyful manner...there T writes "Go among the people. see how they understand how to be happy. but no sooner have you forgotten yourself in contemplation of the joys of others than Fate returns to remind you"....yet Beethoven said that he would "grasp fate by the throat" at the time he grew deaf..tho even he himself had thoughts of committing suicide when it hit him that his most valuable asset, his hearing was now in jeopardy..Fate by itself does nothing for the drama of unfolding his life unless we knew what this unrelenting destiny was that confronted him...but its a for Modest whatever you want to say about him he was the composers closest confidant...was there a rivalry between the two?...possibly Modest was envious of his brothers far greater fame..but having said that lets remember that Modest himself wrote a three volume biography on his famous brother and helped found the Tchaikovsky Museum as well as write the librettos of the composers last two operas...I myself am stymied as to how to write a bio drama on the composer...if I knew of a good one I would probably do it myself....there is one thing from which we can never escape....ourselves...let us go to the most quiet corner of nature, we would still carry our flaws with I said our character is our destiny from which there is no escape but in death..and so this destiny is part of our being and what we are "rough hew it as we will"...we can always leave a nasty environment if we are lucky...but ourselves ...never..."The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"...pursue us with unrelenting persistence... So we have the ineptitudes of our character that impede us from reaching our potential...sexual proclivities, that certainly is a destiny.....about which we can do little...then the secrecy and the need to constantly hide this side of ones character...why arent you married, why dont you have kids,...questions and inquiries that need to be constantly parried...that's not much to go any artist it takes time to be appreciated if one is ever appreciated...think of all the thousands of composers one never hears about..yes there are thousands even in America..or hears a performance one time and not again...but this cannot be said of our composer....whose fame grew ever more so over time.....aside from Von Mecks assistance the Czar presented him with an honorium..many of his operas did not take off and still dont outside of russia...many of his compositions did not become part of the repertory...why only two years before his death Tchaikovsky felt he was played out...and told an interviewer he planned to retire from composition in 1896 and devout himself to gardening....but with the advent of the "Pathetique" his spirits were rejuvenated...he said of this composition..."This is the best piece I have ever written or ever shall write."....I'm assuming then that when 1896 came around and he felt the same way he would still continue with his it was he had a successful his death he was the third most famous man in Russia after the Czar and Tolstoy.....perhaps he was bipolar and this helps exclaim his depressed moods..but Mr Boyd that is for you discover and unfold...and being hypersensitive as we have discussed in these posts was no help in boosting his self writing about Tchaikovsky there are certain elements that should be included....his early childhood experience of hearing music in his head long after the ball that took place....his attachment to his mother....holding the wheels of her carriage as she left....his gradual introduction to classical music, being it in opera, Mozart etc....determination at age 22, 1862 to devout his life to music upon entering St Petersburg..possible homosexual experience at the school of jusrisprudence earlier...his career as professor of harmony in Moscow...his fateful encounters with Madame von Meck and shortly after with his wife to be Antonina...his flight from Moscow and the end of his teaching career thanks to von Meck's largess....Just some ideas as how to proceed with the subject...a few years ago Steve Warren presented us wth a play about Tchaikovsky which he was had troubleing getting produced and asked the Forum if they could help a short time ago a composer came forward with an opera on Tchaikovsky and asked if the Forum could was written with what he thought was Tchaikovsky's style.....he was able to produce it on the college level with piano accompiniment.....not what he would have preferrred.....these are some of the issues in getting an opera or play produced...if your not a known name its tough.....

Best Wishes,

Albert Gasparo
31/03/2013 12:54

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