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Tchaikovsky. A Biographical And Critical Study. To The Crisis (1840-1878)

3.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Victor Gollancz Ltd (26 Nov. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575054263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575054264
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 3.3 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,437,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'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.

Book Description

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.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
David Brown is probably the greatest expert on Tchaikovsky writing in the English language. Having spent sixteen years writing a four-volume biography of the composer, he felt the need to return to his subject following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of previously-closed archives. The result is this one-volume concise but comprehensive biography in thirty chapters.

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.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a perfect introduction to the life and works of Tchaikovsky; whether the reader is a musical scholar or being introduced to his works (or even classical music) for the first time, although I would imagine greater pleasure would be gained from reading this booki if the reader had a certain amount of musical education. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would urge others to do the same.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The 'real' Tchaikovsky bible is, of course, David Brown's four volume biographical and critical study, undertaken over a 16 year period. It is the book to own for real Tchaikovsky fans. It's exhaustive, authoritative and definitive, and will be for many years to come.

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.
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