I mentioned earlier that over Labor Day weekend I had a little Swan Lake marathon and became quite intrigued by the life of Tchaikovsky. I’m not sure exactly how that happened — I think it may have been because the video I saw of the Bolshoi version (from the late 50s) paid such homage to him, as if he were more important than Petipa and Ivanov or anyone else involved, as if the ballet belonged more to the composer than to anyone else. Anyway, I spent an afternoon camped out on the floor of Barnes & Noble and became fascinated. Talk about drama; I’m not sure if there’s any composer, or any artist for that matter, whose life could be more interesting… (even the writing of his life has been fraught with controversy).

(photo from Wikipedia)

The books at B&N were very expensive (one was $72), so I got home and ordered a stack through the NYPL. I was very excited by one in particular — his diaries (Dnevniki). I always prefer to read about the person’s life directly from the subject himself — his thoughts, his letters to others. Reading a biographer means you’re getting things through a certain lens, from a distance usually several times removed. So, I was very excited to see that the library had his journals.

But then when I picked the book up:

I actually took Russian in college; now I’m kicking myself badly for not taking more, and for not keeping up with it over the years.

I guess the fact that I saved my books all this time (and that they’re in my New York apartment and not with one of my parents, along with my other things from college and before) shows I was expecting to use them at some point.

I just don’t know how I’ll ever re-learn everything. Things are coming back, but not at the rate I need to read something like this. Isn’t there a Russian speed-learning course somewhere?!


  1. Hey! I actually have a large collection of his books, and I think including his diaries in English if you want to borrow them! I also have an awesome one of his letters to his family, and another “Beloved Friend” following his correspondance with Nadezha von Meck.

    I can also suggest a few biographies too if you want to do more research! I’m a huge Tchaikovsky dork–but you know that already!

  2. Thanks Ariel! I totally forgot! That would be awesome if I could borrow some. I’ll call you when I get back from North Carolina (leaving tomorrow morning). Thanks so much!

  3. I’ve always been intrigued by him, seeing as I love the Nutcracker but sadly, my music appreciation and classical training didn’t cover him all that much.. I got stuck with Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart(s) with a few pieces of others thrown in now and again. I played Teprek as a duet with my mother when I was younger but that’s pretty much the only Tchaikovsky I got.

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