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When Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky died of cholera in 1893, he was without a doubt Russia’s most celebrated composer. Drawing extensively on Tchaikovsky’s uncensored letters and diaries, this richly documented biography explores the composer’s life and works, as well as the larger and richly robust artistic culture of nineteenth-century Russian society, which would propel Tchaikovsky into international spotlight.
Setting aside clichés of Tchaikovsky as a tortured homosexual and naively confessional artist, Philip Ross Bullock paints a new and vivid portrait of the composer that weaves together insights into his music with a sensitive account of his inner emotional life. He looks at Tchaikovsky’s appeal to wealthy and influential patrons such as Nadezhda von Meck and Tsar Alexander III, and he examines Russia’s growing hunger at the time for serious classical music. Following Tchaikovsky through his celebrity up until his 1891 performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall and his honorary doctorate at the University of Cambridge, Bullock offers an accessible but deeply informed window onto Tchaikovsky’s life and works.