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Pyotr Tchaikovsky: A Biography

Петр Чайковский. Биография

By Alexander Poznansky. Published in Saint Petersburg by Vita Nova (Вита Нова). 2 vols., 1232 pages. ISBN 978-5-93898-227-7 (set), 978-5-93898-229-1 (vol. 1), 978-5-93898-231-4 (vol. 2)

This biography of the great Russian composer, based on his voluminous correspondence and exhaustive archival research, both within and without Russia, is unique in its comprehensive treatment of documentary material. The author is a leading and internationally renowned expert on Tchaikovsky, who spent several decades researching Tchaikovsky's life and published a series of authoritative books in English and Russian on the subject. He was first to recreate the authentic personality of the composer, devoid of bias, ideology or glamour. This work describes in detail the period, environment and personal situation of Tchaikovsky as well as it carefully traces all stages of his creative career. Particular attention is given to the little-known facts of his life, durings his years as student in the School of Jurisprudence, his catastrophic marriage, the aspects of his remarkable relationship with his benefactress Nadezhda von Meck and the circumstances of his untimely death. The narrative is supplemented by more than 500 illustrations, some of them published for the first time made public, and with an index of names.

On Russian Music

By Richard Taruskin (Berkeley; Los Angeles; London, 2009). 407 pages. ISBN 9780520249790.

University of California Press have just published this collection of thirty-six essays on Russian composers written by Richard Taruskin, one of the best authorities in the field of Russian music studies. Among them are four important articles on Tchaikovsky, including:

  • Pathetic Symphonist: Chaikovsky, Russia, Sexuality, and the Study of Music — on the controversy surrounding the composer’s alleged suicide (including a 2008 postscript),
  • Chaikovsky and the Literary Folk: A Study in Misplaced Derision — discussing the story of the opera Yevgeny Onegin,
  • The Great Symbolist Opera — on The Queen of Spades and its consequences on Russian Symbolist movement
  • Chaikovsky as Symphonist — a short, but absorbing account of the composer's six symphonies.
Smert’ Chaikovskogo: Legendy I fakty.

By Alexander Poznansky (Saint Petersburg, 2007). 256 pages. ISBN 9785737903619 (in Russian).

A new expanded and updated edition of the Russian book published in 1993 in Moscow, based on the author’s article "Tchaikovsky's Suicide: Myth and Reality", which appeared in the American musicological journal 19th Century Music (sring issue 1988, vol. 11, no 3, pp. 199–220). The overwhelming amount of evidence collected from the Russian archives, and accounts of the composer's contemporaries, Russian newspapers, medical reports and Tchaikovsky own correspondence, leads Poznansky to conclude that there was not a single shred of factual evidence to support any theory that the composer took his own life.

This page was last updated on 07 February 2013