Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Visit to the Tchaikovsky museum at Klin

A delightful contribution by Nicholas Ryan about his visit to the great man’s final and only home at Klin.   Many thanks to Nicholas for sharing these wonderful memories…

The Tchaikovsky’s Museum is housed in what was Tchaikovsky’s final home for the last year of his life.  It is in the town of Klin, between Moscow and St  Petersburg.  Tchaikovsky rented the home (he never owned one) but on his death his brother, Modest, managed to secure sufficient funds to  buy it from the landlord and turn it into a museum to commemorate the life and works of the composer.

I had read about Tchaikovsky’s home in Professor David Brown’s excellent biography, and expected it to be in the middle of the forest, so was a little surprised that the bus dropped me in the middle of a residential area. I got off the bus, and discovered a park, which I correctly assumed must be the grounds of the museum.
After buying a ticket, I walked through the garden towards the main house. It’s an old, grey painted wooden structure with a tin roof. It’s reasonably large, although not on the same scale as the mansions that rock stars enjoy.

At the front of house is a veranda – I could imagine Tchaikovsky sitting here on a summer evening, enjoying a glass of wine, listening to the birds singing, and perhaps getting some inspiration for his final compositions.

Since I was visiting on a weekday in October, I had the house to myself, apart from the museum staff. The house is largely as it would have been when Tchaikovsky lived there. Dark polished floorboards, wooden furniture. There are many souvenirs of his life; costumes used in the first performances of Yevgeny Onegin, music scores of great composers, particularly Mozart, photographs and letters.

Walking through his house, seeing the furniture that he had used, or the grand piano that he had played many of his pieces on, I felt very close to the great man – I almost expected him to come walking back into the room.

Tchaikovsky left the house for the last time in October 1883, when he travelled to St Petersburg for the premiere of the sixth symphony. He did not return, but died in St Petersburg a few days later. So my visit in October 2013 was 130 years after Tchaikovsky had last been in the house. Not such a long time.

The highlight of the visit for me was in a room overlooking the garden. My audio guide told me that Tchaikovsky used to sit at the table by the window here, composing. As if to add some authenticity, some pages of manuscript lay on the table. They were sketches of his ideas for the six symphony. I was very moved by this – I could see on these pages where that wonderful work had first been conceived. They were hand written, with staves for each of the instruments of the orchestra.

After leaving the house, I wandered through the garden. There is a garden bench on which sits a statue of the man, looking very peaceful. I sat next to him, and thanked him for the pleasure his wonderful music has given me.

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Violin Concerto: Judith Harris

I said right from the outset that I wanted this site to be collaborative.  Here are Judith Harris’s thoughts on the joyful Violin Concerto…

One of the best known Violin Concertos and one of the most difficult for the violin.

The concerto was composed between March and April, 1878. Tchaikovsky composed it following a long period of depression after his disastrous marriage to a former student, Antonina Milyukova.  She had written to him and declared her undying love for him and threatened suicide if Tchaikovsky spurned her advances.  Their sham marriage lasted only three months (although much of that time was spent apart) and he quickly grew to despise her; so much so that the composer made a half hearted suicide attempt by wading waist-deep in the Moscow River, hoping to contract pneumonia.  Through composing this concerto, he once again regained confidence in his abilities.

A personal favourite of mine, because it reminds me of my first classical music concert in Llandudno, Wales, over twenty years ago.  And who better to perform this amazing concerto it than my favourite violinist, Joshua Bell with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo.  It was the centrepiece of the Nobel Prize concert in 2010 in honour of the Nobel Laureates.  It was performed with such intensity and emotion that I am moved every time I hear it.

Judith Harris

How lovely to hear Judith’s recollections.  My own article on the concerto will follow soon but Judith reminds us that we take so much of Tchaikovsky’s music for granted.  This concerto is so often played and most often either badly or routinely that we loose sight of what a beautiful and witty work it is.  Try listening to it again now, perhaps with Joshua as the soloist (or my own favourite Janine Jansens) and just imagine you’ve never heard it before.  And if you haven’t heard it before. what a treat awaits you!

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