Tchaikovsky Course

6/11/2009 - 7/30/2009 ~ Thursday 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

This course will give Tchaikovsky his due as a Russian nationalist and reveal how gracefully he navigated between the sometimes rough-hewn Slavocentrism of his contemporaries, “The Five,” and the technical demands of Western cosmopolitanism. With his profound melodic gift, Tchaikovsky also entranced audience after audience and provided us with a living soundtrack for 19th century Russia. Works studied: Swan Lake, the magnificent Pushkin operas Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin, the supposedly autobiographical fourth and sixth symphonies, and more.

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Printable Syllabus: 

PDF format  | RTF format

Syllabus - Week 1

The course syllabus is in process, but for the first class on Thursday, June 11 we will cover Tchaikovsky at the School of Jurisprudence and the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky and Balakirev. Works discussed: 1st Symphony, 1st String Quartet, and Romeo & Juliet.

Interactive Web Sites

From the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Beyond the Score to Michael Tilson Thomas Keeping Score program, these resources combine musical performance with biography to put Tchaikovsky’s music in historical context.

Click to read more ...

Week 1: Formative Years

Tchaikovsky at the School of Jurisprudence and the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky and Balakirev. Featured: 1st Symphony, 1st String Quartet, Romeo & Juliet.

Week 2: Established in Moscow

Tchaikovsky as professor in Moscow. Tchaikovsky’s social circle. Featured works: Second Symphony, First Piano Concerto, The Tempest.

Week 3: Tchaikovsky's Orchestral Style

Tchaikovsky’s orchestral Style. Featured works: The Four Suites, Hamlet,Manfred Symphony.

Week 4: Antonina and Nadezhda

Tchaikovsky’s disastrous marriage to Antonina Milyukova. His patroness, Nadezhda von Meck. Fourth Symphony, Eugene Onegin (opera), Choral work, Liturgy of St. John Christotam.

Week 5: Tchaikovsky's Operatic Style

Tchaikovsky as an opera composer, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Slavic nationalism. Tchaikovsky and Italian and French models. An overview of the operas concentrating on Mazeppa and Pique Dame.

Week 6: International Master

Tchaikovsky the international master. The Imperial Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky vis a vis Brahms, Wagner. Featured works: Second Piano Concerto, Fifth Symphony, Piano trio, Violin Concerto.

Week 7: The Sovereign Ballet Composer

The sovereign ballet composer: musical analysis & DVD of Swan Lake,Sleeping Beauty and Romeo & Juliet.

Week 8: Final Years

The circumstances of Tchaikovsky’s death. Featured work: Symphony No. 6, Pathetique.

Some overall picks for the whole course are below. For specific works, check each week’s syllabus for things you might buy or rent.

  • Tchaikovsky: The Man and His Music

    by David Brown

  • Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man

    by Alexander Poznansky

    No photo? Click here.

  • Tchaikovsky and His World

    Princeton University Press

  • Tchaikovsky through Others' Eyes (Russian Music Studies)

    Indiana University Press

  • Defining Russia Musically

    by Richard Taruskin

  • On Russian Music

    by Richard Taruskin

  • Tchaikovsky: Letters to His Family (An Autobiography)

    by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

  • Life & Letters of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    by Modest Ilich Chaikovskii

  • "To My Best Friend": Correspondence between Tchaikovsky and Nadezhda von Meck, 1876-1878

    Oxford University Press, USA

  • The Tchaikovsky Handbook: A Guide to the Man and His Music : Catalogue of Letters Genealogy Bibliography (Russian Music Studies Published With the Kind Support of Allen Clowes)

    by Alexander Poznansky

    No picture? Click here to view.