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CLASSICAL  March 2007

CLASSICAL March 2007

Subject:

Re: Communication

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 23 Mar 2007 06:58:41 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (65 lines)

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>The flap over Tchaikovsky's homosexuality has always struck me as a
>prime example of our forcing our ideas of What It Must Have Been Like
>on history.  Because sexual identity is seen as the central definition
>of character in our own day, we reason that it must have been the same
>in late 19th-century St.  Petersburg.  Reading Tchaikovsky's letters to
>various people, both hetero- and homosexual, it's quite clear that he
>defined himself not by sexual orientation, but by nationality.  He worried
>far more about himself as a Russian than as a homosexual.
>
>Furthermore, St. Petersburg -- at least the upper economic circles
>Tchaikovsky moved in -- was far more sophisticated and tolerant than
>many other places in Europe. Indeed, members of the royal family were
>well-known homosexuals.  Guess what?  They weren't shunned.  Cosmopolitan
>Russians sniggered over British "provinciality" in the so-called Wilde
>Affair.

In general I don't find one's sexual orientation to have much of an
influence on the work of a composer, nor worthy of discussion, but for
me, when I read the letters of Tchaikovsky I see the picture of a troubled
soul...one who almost played that role in his life.  For me, it is not
a question as to whether or not society accepted his sexual orientation,
but whether he accepted himself.  Indeed, it has been written that
Tchaikovsky's brother was gay and lived openly with another man, but
also married.  Clearly, portions of that societal milieu were accepting
of homosexuality.  Yet for Tchaikovsky, in what I read in his letters,
he found his own sexuality difficult to resolve....aas per the quote
below...in a letter written to his brother.

   "I am now going through a very critical period of my life. I
   will go into more detail later, but for now I will simply tell
   you, I have decided to get married. It is unavoidable. I must
   do it, not just for myself but for you, Modeste, and all those
   I love. I think that for both of us our dispositions are the
   greatest and most insuperable obstacle to happiness, and we must
   fight our natures to the best of our ability. So far as I am
   concerned, I will do my utmost to get married this year, and if
   I lack the necessary courage, I will at any rate abandon my
   habits forever. Surely you realize how painful it is for me to
   know that people pity and forgive me when in truth I am not
   guilty of anything. How appalling to think that those who love
   me are sometimes ashamed of me. In short, I seek marriage or
   some sort of public involvement with a woman so as to shut the
   mouths of assorted contemptible creatures whose opinions mean
   nothing to me, but who are in a position to cause distress to
   those near to me."

As to how his sexuality ranks within those elements that influenced his
life, I cannot say, and perhaps his nationality was more central to his
quest for identity.

I should also add that I don't believe a composer's gender or sexual
orientation says much about their music.  On the other hand, I believe
that how accepting of one's self a composer might be, can find expression
in what he or she writes.

Karl

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