It is commonly known outside Russia that the country’s most popular composer was gay. Not in Russia, though, where it has been barred from public discussion for almost a century. It is unthinkable to the authorities, especially in the era of Putin, that Russia’s national treasure was a homosexual.
Now a new book of Tchaikovsky’s letters has been published using information contained in his more than 5,000 letters and never before available in English. In “The Tchaikovsky Papers: Unlocking the Family Archive” published in the US and UK by Yale University Press, much detail of the composer’s sexual dramas are revealed. Often intimate and bawdy, it restores secretive passages about the composer’s homosexuality that have for long been deleted by Russian censors.
In one, he writes of a young servant
“with whom I am more in love than ever”, adding: “My God, what an angelic creature and how I long to be his slave, his plaything, his property!”
In another about “a torment of indecision”:
“My rendezvous had been arranged for this evening. A truly bitter-sweet dilemma! Finally I decided to go. I spent two absolutely wonderful hours in the most romantic circumstances; I was scared, I was thrilled, I was afraid of the slightest sound. Embraces, kisses, an out-of-the-way apartment… tender talk, what delight!”
The book does not solve the alleged mystery of his death at age 53. His final symphony, the 6th, breaks totally from tradition and has a last movement full of the most wrenching despair, even including a phrase from the Russian Orthodox Requiem. This suggests to some that he knew he was going to die. Nine days after its first performance, he was indeed dead. The reason given was cholera, a result of drinking a glass of unboiled tap water. But cholera was a disease of the poor and Tchaikovsky was at the very height of his fame.
One of the most durable, but often discounted, theories was that he had committed one sexual indiscretion too many by seducing the nephew of a Duke. This was reported to the Tsar and passed to the Chief Prosecutor. He was then ordered to commit suicide or be exposed. That would have meant the destruction of his reputation, deportation to Siberia for life and being whipped with birch rods. But we will never know for sure why he drank that tap water.
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/ ... osexuality
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