Tchaikovsky. A Biographical And Critical Study. To The Crisis (1840-1878)
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'Both thorough and entertaining.' -- Herald
'Brown matches a sensitive scrutiny of the composer's life with an engaging ability to analyse his music.' -- Observer
'Informed and enthusiastic ... Tchaikovsky's passionate attachments, rich inner life and mercurial generosity are made as clear as his melodies.' -- Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Tchaikovsky by David Brown is a fascinating and detailed guide to the life and works of this much-loved Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It is a little disappointing to find the first eighteen years of the composer's life - the most formative for any human - being covered in only eleven pages. And chapter ten of the thirty takes us up to the age of thirty-five. But at least Brown does not shy away from his subject's homosexuality, writing how the composer's sexuality "has long been (and, perhaps, still is) a subject provoking sometimes violent dissent." And yet, when Brown writes about "a small incident that gives us graphic insight into Tchaikovsky's inner sexual world", the details provided about the young Vittorio that the composer encountered in Florence could be interpreted as wholly innocent in nature.
One chapter consists of lengthy extracts from correspondence written by Tchaikovsky to his patron. These helpful quotations provide some keys to his composing method, such as "Those who think that the creative artist at the moment of emotional excitement is able ... to express what he feels are mistaken ... Having no reason to be happy, I can fill myself with a happy creative humour and, conversely, in a happy situation produce a piece that is imbued with the most gloomy and hopeless feelings." As an example of the composer's integrity, Brown quotes Tchaikovsky writing, "You cannot write a symphonic work and afterwards seek out a programme for it."
The circumstances of the composer's death remain contentious.Read more ›
The writer takes us on a chronological journey through Tchaikovsky's life, frequently quoting dairy entries, letters, newspapers, etc. which make for a truly fascinating read. The writer also looks at each of the composer's works in detail as he goes along, although he does sometimes go into too much detail for the casual reader, e.g. he outlines each plot of the operas and ballets, and gives a detailed listening commentary to each major work. I personally found this detailed analysis fascinating and very well studied and written, but unless the reader was listening to the corresponding work at the same time, I doubt they would find this useful.
Brown's style is simple and to-the-point, but very readable. What I really liked about this biography was that it is very clear the author has a great love of his subject (Brown is a recognised expert on Russian music) and his passion for the composer and his music is evident throughout; a masterpiece of musicology.
Please note: I have noticed that Amazon have placed this review on another of David Brown's Tchaikovsky works, the four-volume study - please note this is an error, and I refer to the single-volume book with the red front.
But this is a much lighter affair and none the poorer for that. I keep a copy close by me at all times - it's very easy to read and find insightful reviews of all the major works including, splendidly, the often neglected operas. It's the book to get if you want to know more about Tchaikovsky, the man and his music, without going for the full length study.
The works are listed and reviews in chronological order alongside his life. Brown is certainly a fan but no blind acolyte. He knows Tchaikovsky's weaknesses all too well and sometimes Brown seems to feel a genuine disappointment that Tchaikovsky lets him down... "If only, if only, the same could be said for the Finale..."
But he is meticulously fair. If you are in any doubt about Tchaikovsky's place among the first rank of composers, then this book will help to to find Tchaikovsky right up there; music so much maligned but, at its best, some of the finest and most powerful ever written.
I have the book here now; one of the reviews says, "This book made me want to listen to the music again and that, I think, is the effect the author most desired." And it really is like that. You revisit music you may have known for years - perhaps the Violin Concerto, for example - and after you read what Brown says about it and you really do want to sit down and listen to a good performance with refreshed ears.
Scholarly but accessible, this book is a must for all Tchaikovsky devotees and those who might simply want to know more about the man behind some of the most beautiful music ever written.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an interesting and detailed book on Tchaikovsky in an easy-to-read style. I enjoyed the book, however, I was not as enamoured of it as other reviewers seemed to be; I feel... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Pianissimo
This a superb book. Many composers have lived the life of the "tortured genius" but few deserve the title more so than Tchaikovsky. Read morePublished on 17 July 2014 by Giles Christian
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