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Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" and Edvard Zak

Having seen that most recently Alexander Poznansky has been active on this forum, I'd like to use this opportunity to ask him a question about what seems to be quite a riddle for me: 

In his book, Tchaikovsky - The Quest for the Inner Man, London: Lime Tree, 1993, p. 119 , he has written the following about the "Romeo and Juliet Overture": "Considerable caution is always required when relating a musical composition directly to biographical tribulation, for a work of art nearly always obscures and transcends the experience that gives impetus to its composition. [...] In the case of Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet", an intimate link can be seen between this fervent piece of music and an obscure drama unfolding in the composer's life at the time of its composition [in autumn 1869, GM]: his infatuation with a young man by the name of Edvard Zak."

However, on the next page, A. Poznansky mentions that Edvard Zak has only been mentioned three times in Tchaikovsky's published writings, the first time being in a letter of 28 November 1871 - some full two years AFTER the composition of the first version of the "Romeo and Juliet" overture.

Now, I would be very curious to know what are the reasons that are leading Alexander Poznansky to conclude that Tchaikovky did not only know about Edvard Zak in 1869, but even get closelly in touch with him at that time. Is it simply a conjecture in order to better be able to explain the stunning beauty of the love theme in the "Romeo and Juliet Overture", or are there other, clear clues that indeed Tchaikovsky must have known Edvard Zak at this early stage.

Then, I wonder whether in the mean time more is known about Edvard Zak himself than the very few data mentioned in "Tchaikovsky - The Quest for the Inner Man". (The only things known about Zak are that he was 19 years-old when he committed suicide in  November 1873 and seems to have been a cousin of Tchaikovsky's pupil at the Moscow Conservatory, Rudolph Köber). 

With many thanks in advance,

Guido Mühlemann
12/07/2013 12:17

Dear Mr. Muhlemann,

If you turn to our postings in the Forum on "Hotel Normandie", you will find a good deal of discussion on this fellow Edvard Zak and how close Tchaikovsky was to him..You will have to go to my postings of 27/12/2012 21:05 to get my conclusive remarks on the subject. I make it very clear that under Chronology for Autumn 1869 there are two entries...1. He meets Milii Balakirev in Moscow, and under his influence writeHotel Normandies the Overture-Fantasia Romeo and Juliet...2. He begins a passionate friendship with the conservatory student Edvard Zak....Zak was only it seems a good deal of the composition was written inspired by Zak.....this Chronology comes from our own Tchaikovsky-Research....all we know about Zak is discussed in the Forum...I too conferred with Poznansky's book...I believe our discussions on this topic will answer your question...

Thank You,

Albert Gasparo
13/07/2013 00:01

Dear Mr. Gasparo

Thank you very much for your information and especially for the link to the "Hotel Normandie".

Yet, I still think that this matter is in no way settled. Although in the chronology about Tchaikovsky's life on the website Tchaikovsky-Research-net there is a mention for the year 1869 whereas Tchaikovksky "...begins a passionate friendship with conservatory student Eduard Zak..." one should not forget, that this entry (as well as the whole text...) has been written by Mr. Alexander Poznansky himself, which means that there is no other source for Tchaikovsky's contacts with Edvard Zak in 1869 already than the already mentioned one in Poznansky's "Tchaikovsky - The Quest for the Inner Man".

This means, that basically nothing has changed.

Therefore, it would be very interesting to hear from Mr. Poznansky himself on which sources he has based this information in his book, or whether it was just an - although somewhat understandable - speculation of him.

I'm now really very curious to know what Mr. Poznansky will have to tell us on this issue.

With best regards,

Guido Mühlemann
13/07/2013 11:26

Hello all. Here is some information concerning Eduard Zak from my new book Tchaikovsky. A Biography, recently published in Russia. I hope that it will help to clarify this tragic episode from the composer's life:

Alexander Poznansky
13/07/2013 16:40

I find it interesting that Mr Poznansky also mentions on page 40 of his Quest for the Inner Man that some scholars have insisted that the Romeo and Juliet Overture arose out of Tchaikovsky's unrequited love for Vladimir Gerard.

Philip de Vos
Cape Town - South Africa
15/07/2013 08:22

Dear Mr Poznansky

I'd like to thank you very much for your quick and detailed response to my question. I think, now the situation is much clearer...

Unfortunately, I'm not fluent in the Russian language, therefore, I'd like to ask you when your new book "Tchaikovsky. A Biography" will be available in English?

Because - if my recollection is correct - you have announced last year that an English edition is being planned.

With best regards,

Guido Mühlemann
15/07/2013 17:37

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