Classical Haiku: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Nurtured in your art,
So sensitive in spirit,
You and your music.

There seems to have been a lot of mystery and no small amount of pain in Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s life.

Perhaps most mysterious was the relationship he had with his patroness, Nadhezda von Meck. She offered to underwrite the talented Tchaikovsky’s musical endeavors on condition that they never meet.

Tchaikovsky took this (strange) bid and was able to compose 13 years’ worth of great music on von Meck’s dime. But when Tchaikovsky’s niece married von Meck’s son the family was never the same.

For me, the music by Tchaikovsky most emblematic of his life is not the stirring ballet music of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, but instead his Sixth (and final) Symphony, Pathétique.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i63BMmr1FNw

From the very first notes you know you’ve left the affirmative world of the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies and entered a different, darker dimension of human experience. Then the finale rolls around, beginning with anguished cries of lamentation and ending with the faintest heartbeat barely sustaining maybe not even life, maybe merely existence.

That is the Tchaikovsky that echoes in my mind. The boldness of some of his music says much about his skill as a composer. But the anguish of his Sixth Symphony tells us even more about his humanity.

Today’s Classical Haiku honors Tchaikovsky’s soul, which ached in beautiful melodies.


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