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Thread: Tchaikovsky's heterosexuality

  1. #16
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    I think people like to know who they are admiring and NO being gay does not have a bearing on their talents.
    Jan

  2. #17
    Commander, Assistant Conductor zlya's Avatar
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    I can think of one reason why Tchaikovsky's sexual-orientation might matter. Feel free to disagree.

    Say we want to study Tchaikovsky's music as a product of his life and his personal experience. In that case, if the rumors are true and he was trying to hide or suppress homosexual feelings or practices for whatever social or political reason, that would be a major contributor to his emotional state. So if we want to determine whether a composer's emotional state and personal life affect his compositions, we might want to know whether or not he was gay.

    On the other hand, I once read an article which maintained that Tchaikovsky's use of the feminine subdominant and discordant tri-tone rather than the manly dominant clearly proves his sexual deviation. There is only one word for THAT sort of analysis, and I am far too polite to mention it in mixed company.

  3. #18
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    I find it strange that the issue of Tchaikovsky's supposed homosexuality has never been independently confirmed and submitted in scientific and peer-reviewed academic journals. It's just been taken for granted that he was *homo* - sort of a validation a certain group seeks in order to browbeat everyone else who disagrees with them.

    My $0.03 cents worth,

    Giovanni

  4. #19
    Captain of Water Music Ouled Nails's Avatar
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    David Brown, Tchaikovsky: the Man and his Music, Pegasus Books, 512 pages.

    This recent biography, drawn from an article in today's Moscow Times, was almost certainly peer reviewed:

    For the Record
    A new biography of Tchaikovsky ranks the popular composer among the giants of 19th-century music.
    By George Loomis
    Published: April 20, 2007
    Music lovers of a certain age conditioned to think of Pyotr Tchaikovsky as a second-rate composer may have stories of their own personal epiphanies, when the splendor of the music trounced such assertions as Paul Henry Lang's "Tchaikovsky does not belong to the company of the great of music" (1941) or Gerald Abraham's "Beginning with the Fourth Symphony and 'Eugene Onegin,' Tchaikovsky's music now reflects all the indulgent yearning and the garish exteriorization of a composer who can never refrain from wearing his heart on his sleeve" (1945). My awakening came in the early 1970s when I was asked to write program notes for his Fifth Symphony (a work with which I had no prior experience) and was blown away by the melodic inspiration, craftsmanship and drama of the piece.

    What happened in recent decades to cause a 180-degree shift in the critical estimation of Tchaikovsky? How could mid-century critics have gotten it so wrong? One person in a position to answer is the British musicologist David Brown, formerly professor at the University of Southampton and author of a previous four-volume biography of the composer, which, as he reminds us in this new one-volume book, is "the largest life-and-works of a Russian composer ever written anywhere -- including Russia itself." Yet his new book does not answer such questions. Instead of addressing concepts or polemics, it is pitched to the lay listener, for whom trends in criticism are peripheral matters at best. Tchaikovsky, in fact, was always popular with the general public, and Brown seeks to ensure that he will remain so.

    Brown keeps technical jargon to a minimum in musical discussions, which are laced through an account of Tchaikovsky's life. As a sign of user-friendliness, he sets forth his list of the composer's "top dozen" works. (In fact, there are 17, because some entries have alternates, e.g., "'Eugene Onegin' or 'The Queen of Spades.'") All works discussed are subjected to a ranking system -- one to five stars (few win under three stars.) Printed musical examples apparently being deemed the province of scholarly endeavors, there are none, although they could jar one's memory of familiar theme -- didn't any of Brown's hypothetical readers play an instrument or sing in a church choir? Footnotes are also dispensed with, though there is a comprehensive index.

    Brown makes no effort to respond to critics of his magnum opus (the four-volume biography), such as the American musicologist Richard Taruskin, nor does he even acknowledge them. His musical discussions -- descriptive guides for listening, really -- are unfailingly evenhanded. A work's shortcomings are duly noted, but Brown balances them with something positive. Readers of the new book will be astonished to learn of Taruskin's assertion that Brown's earlier work had an "agenda" to document Tchaikovsky's "secondary, subcanonical status." (It is typical of Taruskin's efforts, at times unfair, to link Brown with earlier, benighted critical views of Tchaikovsky.) Yet the new book is unambiguous in proclaiming Tchaikovsky's greatness, and Brown would have the reader believe that his veneration of the composer is nothing new. "Never had I realized [before undertaking the four-volume biography] how fascinating, how complex a man Tchaikovsky was -- even more, how great and varied a composer, and just how much of his vast output I simply had not known. Tchaikovsky was, I discovered, one of the true giants of nineteenth-century music."

    On one point Brown seems to have come around to the Taruskin view, and that concerns measuring a work's quality by the extent of its "Russianness." "The best of Tchaikovsky's work is more distinctly Russian than that of most of his compatriots; it is not German music in disguise," trumpets the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition. Implicit here is the idea that composers from countries outside the European mainstream had to write music with a character of its own because they were somehow unfit to contribute meaningfully to the European mainstream tradition. Earlier, Brown had called "Eugene Onegin" "not only perhaps Tchaikovsky's masterpiece, but also the most deeply Russian of all his works"; now the "masterpiece" label requires no further gloss. Brown does observe that the Austro-German symphonic tradition is "characterized by 'thoughtful' practices," whereas Slavic composers "created much more impulsively." But at least he backs up his point with an observation by Modest Mussorgsky: "A German, when he thinks, first analyzes, then creates. A Russian first creates, then amuses himself with analysis."

    Tchaikovsky's favorite composer was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a point many writers have found inconsistent with Tchaikovsky's status as an arch-Romantic. Yet both composers were closely linked to royal courts -- an 1884 production of "Eugene Onegin" mounted in St. Petersburg at Tsar Alexander III's request made Tchaikovsky a celebrity. And the two composers shared a common aesthetic by writing music intended to give pleasure to the listener, a goal that Richard Wagner, in Tchaikovsky's view, did not always set for himself. Tchaikovsky paid homage to Mozart in several works, including the extended pastoral divertissement, in 18th-century style, in his opera "The Queen of Spades." In his earlier work, Brown called the pastoral "too otiose." A more mellow Brown now questions "whether it was wise to interpolate into this otherwise taut opera such a protracted interlude of very charming, but also very slight music." I have always found the pastoral a bold and highly unusual way of evoking an operatic setting, here 18th-century St. Petersburg.
    In recounting Tchaikovsky's life, Brown has engagingly and thoughtfully distilled his earlier work. Tchaikovsky led a charmed life in many respects. He was among the first graduates of Russia's new conservatories in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and thus had the advantage of a professional education, something Mussorgsky and other members of the "Russian Five" group of composers lacked. Later, he taught at the Moscow Conservatory instead of having to take a civil-service day job. And even his conservatory position became unnecessary thanks to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, who supported him from 1877 to 1890. In his later years he was acknowledged (by the young Anton Chekhov, among others) to rank second only to Leo Tolstoy as a Russian creative artist. As a personality, he emerges as perhaps a bit highly strung, but caring and compassionate in relationships with his extended family, professional colleagues and friends.

    He was also homosexual. Typically, Brown sets forth the facts, including those pertaining to the occasional one-night stand, and leaves it to the reader to make of them what he or she will. Homosexuality, of course, was at the root of Tchaikovsky's disastrous marriage and, arguably, of the circumstances of his death at age 53 in 1893. Tchaikovsky married Antonina Milyukova to scotch "rumors," thinking that the two could live "like brother and sister," as he explained to her. But he found that he could not tolerate her presence, and the resulting turmoil affected his work, although his treatment of her remained honorable and generous.

    Brown's article on Tchaikovsky for the 1980 edition of "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians" helped legitimize a theory about Tchaikovsky's death -- long attributed to cholera -- propounded by an expatriate Soviet musicologist. It holds that an "honor court" made up of alumni of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence, Tchaikovsky's alma mater, was convened after evidence came to someone's attention that Tchaikovsky seduced an aristocrat's nephew; the court ordered that he take his own life and he complied. I personally find the theory, which sparked a vigorous debate, hard to credit, both because it conflicts with other evidence and because it attributes to Tchaikovsky behavior that simply doesn't seem plausible. If Brown had second thoughts about his Grove article, he doesn't say so, but his position appears to have softened. About the cause of Tchaikovsky's death he now writes, "I doubt we shall ever know."

    George Loomis writes about classical music from Moscow and New York.

  5. #20
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    Hi Ouled Nails,

    That was an interesting outlay you shared but I hardly consider it to be a scientific fact. Even at the end of the outlay *about the cause of Tchaikovsky's death*......."I doubt if we shall ever know." I perceive the same to apply as to Tchaikovsky's life. Yes, his unhappy marriage to Ms. Milyukova does not speak well of his heterosexualness but we should keep in mind that many couples will wind up with failed marriages.

    That, of course, is not a reason not to get married. There was also gossip about Tchaikovsky having been involved in a scandal with a member of Romanov family and in order for the member of the Romanov family to rectify the situation, he/she fabricated something that was untrue. Again, what that was we will never know. Therefore, I find it folly and fallacious the constant uncritical *manufacturing* of *evidence* that Tchaikovsky was a *homo*.

    I will entertain, although not lightly, that Tchaikovsky *might* have had *homophile* desires, which is quite different from homoeroticism. Most men will struggle at one point in their lives with *homophile* desires. That is the human condition we find ourselves in. The same goes for women also. We can choose to live out/indulge in our fantasies about same-sex relations or we can choose not to. I will submit the following scientific paper written by a qualified physician about the same-sex phenomenon:

    http://www.narth.com/docs/TheTrojanCouchSatinover.pdf


    Regards!

    Giovanni

  6. #21
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by giovannimusica View Post
    Hi Ouled Nails,

    That was an interesting outlay you shared but I hardly consider it to be a scientific fact...
    I didn't think that Ouled Nails was attempting to say that it was. He/she simply posted a review of a book that contains far more details about the subject, including the matter of the composer's sexuality.

    As I mentioned earlier:

    Quote Originally Posted by Sybarite View Post
    ... Since she suggests that Alexander Poznansky's Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man is a work of "serious scholarship", perhaps you might like to check that out if you're interested...
    A consistent factor that rarely comes up in these discussions, but which would explain some things, is that Tchaikovsky was actually bisexual. However, there is – in both heterosexual and homosexual camps – a refusal on occasions to consider anything that sits outside the popular, but simplistic and two-dimensional general approach to sexuality.

    And with all due respects, Giovanni, posting a link to an organisiation with a homophobic agenda that is miles removed from mainstream medical and scientific knowledge on the subject does nothing to add to the debate, but merely suggests – and forgive me if I'm wrong here – that the issue for you and some others, is that you do not personally like the idea of 'different' sexualities and, therefore, do not wish to consider them in terms of figures that you admire.
    Last edited by Sybarite; Apr-23-2007 at 13:56.

  7. #22
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    Hi Sybarite,

    I'm glad that we can and do differ since that makes for good debate, which sometimes reveals preconceived hostilities of different groups. At least we have exposed some hostility on this forum. With all due respect, Sybarite, it seems that you wish to foreclose any debate and having preconceived notions about my motives. I have consistently maintained a respectful and non-judgemental position. At no time have I hurled insults, invectives, tirades or pre-judged anyone or any group, nor do I say that you are doing the same. May I most respectfully suggest that you should add to the debate, not by speaking about organizations that have a differing agenda, but by debating the independent research of a qualified physician who has knowledge and has submitted his findings to an independent scientific journal. It is the research that is the most interesting and that it is in a scientific journal, not a daily or weekly entertainment *rag*.

    We are a civilization that has many wonderful tools at our disposal and science is one of them. It is used to prove/disprove preconceived notions that researchers and the common man has. Just as in another thread where I took up the cause of a well-respected scholar who was not in the *mainstream*, who went against the prevailing orthodoxy/orthopraxy of the environmental lobby, who is himself an environmentalist(Bjorn Lomborg). So too do I debate the issue about Tchaikovsky's *alternateness*, especially since we do not know all the details of Tchaikovsky's life and obviously none of us on this forum lived in Russia during Tchaikovsky's life.

    I do therefore take exception to the prevailing orthodoxy/orthopraxy of the *mainstream* to stake a claim about a composers lifestyle. All what I ask is that we keep an open and inquiring mind to the situation. I heartily and respectfully enjoin you to do the same.

    Humbly yours,

    Giovanni

  8. #23
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by giovannimusica View Post
    Hi Sybarite,

    I'm glad that we can and do differ since that makes for good debate, which sometimes reveals preconceived hostilities of different groups. At least we have exposed some hostility on this forum. With all due respect, Sybarite, it seems that you wish to foreclose any debate and having preconceived notions about my motives. I have consistently maintained a respectful and non-judgemental position. At no time have I hurled insults, invectives, tirades or pre-judged anyone or any group, nor do I say that you are doing the same. May I most respectfully suggest that you should add to the debate, not by speaking about organizations that have a differing agenda, but by debating the independent research of a qualified physician who has knowledge and has submitted his findings to an independent scientific journal. It is the research that is the most interesting and that it is in a scientific journal, not a daily or weekly entertainment *rag*.

    We are a civilization that has many wonderful tools at our disposal and science is one of them. It is used to prove/disprove preconceived notions that researchers and the common man has. Just as in another thread where I took up the cause of a well-respected scholar who was not in the *mainstream*, who went against the prevailing orthodoxy/orthopraxy of the environmental lobby, who is himself an environmentalist(Bjorn Lomborg). So too do I debate the issue about Tchaikovsky's *alternateness*, especially since we do not know all the details of Tchaikovsky's life and obviously none of us on this forum lived in Russia during Tchaikovsky's life.

    I do therefore take exception to the prevailing orthodoxy/orthopraxy of the *mainstream* to stake a claim about a composers lifestyle. All what I ask is that we keep an open and inquiring mind to the situation. I heartily and respectfully enjoin you to do the same.

    Humbly yours,

    Giovanni
    As far as I am aware, nobody – myself included – has suggested that the issue of Tchaikovsky's sexuality has been proven or otherwise by anything on this thread or elsewhere.

    However, you – and you alone – have chosen to introduce an element into this thread about the nature of sexuality, suggesting, by the site that you linked to, that it is a choice and that people can be 'cured' of it.

    The article that you linked to is not presented in a scientific manner and is reactionary. It raises issues that are utterly irrelevant to the major question*. To do so is entirely consistent with a particular conservative, religious agenda. And it an agenda that is homophobic.

    Why did you choose to introduce this? It has absolutely no use in terms of this issue – is has nothing whatsoever to say about Tchaikovsky's sexuality.

    So why did you introduce it?

    As I said before, forgive if I'm wrong, but the only conclusion that I personally can come to is that you do not like 'alternate' sexualities and do not wish to countenance the idea that Tchaikovsky may have been gay for that reason.

    Otherwise, why would you be concerned?

    Again, why did you need to raise, in this context – a thread about Tchaikovsky – a link to a homophobic website with a particular agenda about 'curing' homosexuals and bisexuals? What does it have to say about Tchaikovsky?


    * The piece raises politics and describes someone as being "anti-war, pro-abortion" – as if that has any relevance other than to people reading who will nod and go: 'clearly a dodgy person if they have those views'. Indeed, to use "pro-abortion" as opposed to 'pro-choice' is the kind of emotional language that people with a certain agenda use. And it is inaccurate.

  9. #24
    Commodore con Forza Andrew Roussak's Avatar
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    Hi guys,

    sorry I'm meddling one more time in your scientific debates - the topic of Tchaikovsky's homosexuality seems to be that popular here!

    First, as already mentioned, the matter of Tchaikovsky was gay or not is hardly possible to prove. But I doubt whether it is that necessary. For me it was always smth. like "you know and I know". That is, as Tchaikovsky was officially regarded as the Russian composer # 1 during the Soviet era, any discussion about his sexuality in the official press ( and there was no unofficial ) was just impossible to imagine. Behind the closed doors, however, there was no question about it. I don't think there can be any rumours without a reason for them.

    And yes, I believe you can hear it in his music.

  10. #25
    Commander, Assistant Conductor
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    How can you hear it in his music? I love his music,it's so melodic.

    Also, wasn't he more bisexual? I heard his brother Modest was gay also?
    Jan

  11. #26
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Andrew, did I get that right? Are you saying you hear a composer`s sexual orientation in his works? I sure don`t. What exactly do you hear that I don`t? And can you describe it to me?
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  12. #27
    Commodore con Forza Andrew Roussak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by janny108 View Post
    How can you hear it in his music? I love his music,it's so melodic.

    Also, wasn't he more bisexual? I heard his brother Modest was gay also?
    Jan

    Andrew, did I get that right? Are you saying you hear a composer`s sexual orientation in his works? I sure don`t. What exactly do you hear that I don`t? And can you describe it to me
    Hi Jan and Rojo,

    thanks at least for not eating me alive for that!!

    Jan - I didn't actually say Tchaikovsky was not melodic. He became namely famous because of his fine and - yes - beautiful melodic lines - which fact still doesn't change the whole matter. I can name you two more absolutely outstanding artists having produced a huge number of great melodies , I admire both of them - these are Elton John and Freddie Mercury. Then, I truly believe one can admire Tchaikovsky as well, since he was definetely one of the greatest Russian composers. The fact that I don't like the most of his music is a matter of taste - say, I don't like the chord progressions he would generally make use of, I find the repeats a little bit too often and therefore boring etc. Maybe it is a kind of allergy inherited from the Soviet times, as you could hear his music ,literally, at every corner.
    I hope you don't hate me that much anymore ...

    Rojo - as I really believe, that every composer expresses his personality in his works - in every single piece composed by him - then his sexuality may also have its influence on that process. Well, sexuality forms personality anyway, doesn't it? You may find the traces of the various significantly less important circumstances of life in the different works of the different composers - happy marriage, unhappy private life, illness, wealth or poverty etc.
    A little bit more to your question - I have visited your site, have read a number of your posts since I joined MMIF - I can not actually suppose that you are unable to hear anything that I am. I guess maybe you much likely don't see the connection here or have never thought about it. I am not saying that I ( or anybody else ) can certainly hear the sexual orientation of any composer in his works - I only have meant the music of Tchaikovsky might be ( on my opinion !!! ) a case from a textbook in this aspect. Which doesn't make this music worse anyway, of course.
    Was it the answer to your question or should I have been more concrete about it ?

    Best regards from Germany - I am really enjoying my time with MMIF !!
    Andrew

  13. #28
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Hi Andrew,

    Well, it would be fun to play excerpts by various composers for you and get you to guess their sexual orientation. And then we could examine your results to see if you have some kind of uncanny talent or something here. (Just kidding around. )

    I get your point about what makes up a composer`s personality affecting his works. But can you tell me what it is in the music itself that tells you the man is gay?

    It`s funny though, on a related note, Sybarite brought to my attention an interesting article (here- http://www.magle.dk/music-forums/336...-up-baton.html ) where music was referred to in gender terms. I guess you`re right; it just doesn`t occur to me to think of music in those terms. So thinking that way is new to me. Although so far, I find it rather useless, because it changes nothing for me in the way I appreciate works.

    Btw, we would never eat you alive; we prefer to flame-broil you first instead. Thanks for visiting my site, and glad you enjoy your time here; as you may have noticed, I can`t seem to get enough of it.
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  14. #29
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    There have been times when I have wondered whether George Gershwin's music suggests a certain poignancy in terms of unfulfilled relationships and that that could infer something of his sexuality, but then one would have to ask if the same could be found in Cole Porter's music and I've never heard that. Do I listen to Stephen Sondheim and think: 'oh, how gay this is'? No I don't; it's never occurred to me to think of Sondheim's music in terms of a form of sexuality.

    Just a brief thought on 'hearing' something of the composer's personality in music: can anyone hear Wagner's anti-semitism in The Ring?

  15. #30
    Commodore con Forza Andrew Roussak's Avatar
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    Hi Sybarite & Rojo,

    There have been times when I have wondered whether George Gershwin's music suggests a certain poignancy in terms of unfulfilled relationships and that that could infer something of his sexuality, but then one would have to ask if the same could be found in Cole Porter's music and I've never heard that. Do I listen to Stephen Sondheim and think: 'oh, how gay this is'? No I don't; it's never occurred to me to think of Sondheim's music in terms of a form of sexuality.

    Just a brief thought on 'hearing' something of the composer's personality in music: can anyone hear Wagner's anti-semitism in The Ring?
    Cole Porter - actually I must admit I know him only as an author of the numerous jazz-standarts ( Night & Day, I've Got a Kick Out Of You... ), although I am aware these were actually the themes from the musicals he composed - the way many would play Macky Knife of Kurt Weill without having any idea about Die Dreigroschenopera from which the tune actually is.
    So to your question - these are just the good old jazz-standarts for me - as well as many others.

    Wagner - rather interesting, never heard he was antisemitic. I always thought he was a favourite composer of Hitler because his music just fitted the Hitler's "image" of how the Third Reich should look like - that momumentalistic and preussisch ( Prussian ) .If you have ever been in Berlin and have stood near the Reichstag building ( and not only seen it on a picture ), then you surely know what I mean. Well, the fact that Wagner was antisemitic makes the whole subject even more clear.
    I have no idea how should the "antisemitic" music sound like - if anybody can explain it to me , maybe I will be able to hear it too...

    Well, it would be fun to play excerpts by various composers for you and get you to guess their sexual orientation. And then we could examine your results to see if you have some kind of uncanny talent or something here. (Just kidding around. )
    Hey, I don't think I have any uncanny talents!!! And you can not judge about the whole heritage of the composer Xxxxx basing on only one specific work of him - so your funny method will not work . Ok, I guess I must just be more specific on this subject - which means actually I need to take a little bit time for it , to describe it in more or less acceptable musical and theoretical terms how do I understand the music of Tchaikovsky in terms of this thread. Then there will be smth. to discuss at least.
    I promise to do this , if it is still interesting for you, but sorry not earlier as in about 2 days, as this weekend is a bit crazy by me. You don't even need to answer this post till then -

    many greetings and good luck
    Andrew

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