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Essential Tchaikovsky

The stereotypical image of the composer as tortured genius actually fits Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky like the proverbial glove. Crippled with anxiety that his homosexuality would be exposed to society, he nonetheless wore his heart on his sleeve in some of classical music's most famous melodies. Read more…

Works like 'The Nutcracker' and 'Sleeping Beauty' are full of delicious tunes, as are his concertos. The cannonfire of the 1812 Overture may be overly familiar to listeners, but it wasn't a work of which Tchaikovsky was proud, dismissing it as "very loud and noisy", but without artistic merit. The composer was much better at portraying tragedy and angst, be it Onegin's belated – and rebuffed – declaration of love for Tatyana, the fate of swan princess Odette, or the doomed gambler, Hermann, in The Queen of Spades, over whose death Tchaikovsky openly wept whilst composing his death scene. Fate plays a major role in his final three symphonies: hammering at the door in the Fourth, stoically embraced in the Fifth and in the Sixth – the 'Pathétique' – the composer gives up the ghost in a long, winding finale which peters out into nothing. Nine days after its premiere, Tchaikovsky was dead.

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