The Tchaikovsky Papers Unlocking the Family Archive Marina Kostalevsky, Stephen Pearl, Polina E. Vaidman

Publication date:
29 May 2018
Yale University Press
320 pages: 235 x 156mm
22 b-w illus.
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This fascinating collection of letters, notes, and miscellanea from the archives of the Tchaikovsky State House-Museum sheds new light on the world of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Most of these documents have never before been available in English, and they reveal the composer’s daily concerns, private thoughts, and playful sense of humor. Often intimate and sometimes bawdy, these texts also offer a new perspective on Tchaikovsky’s upbringing, his relations with family members, his patriotism, and his homosexuality, collectively contributing to a greater understanding of a major artist who had a profound impact on Russian culture and society. This is an essential compendium for cultural and social historians as well as musicologists and music lovers.

Marina Kostalevsky is an associate professor of Russian at Bard College. She is the author of many publications on Russian literature and music. Stephen Pearl is former chief of English interpretation at the United Nations. His translations have won the 2008 AATSEEL Prize (for Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov) and been short-listed for the 2016 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize (for Goncharov’s The Same Old Story).

“Essential in filling out a more humane and complete portrait of the composer and his art.”—Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe

“These newly translated documents provide deeper insight both into Tchaikovsky himself, and the family circle and larger society in which he was active.”—Rebecca Mitchell, Canadian-American Slavic Studies

“This English-language version of the ground-breaking original Russian text has been prepared with great skill and care. The notes are particularly admirable, and the translations of the letters and other documents impeccable”– Arnold McMillin, The Slavonic and East European Review

Winner of the Outstanding Academic Title for 2018 award sponsored by Choice

"We are now at home with much that was once taboo about Tchaikovsky—his tsarist loyalties, his homosexuality, how he died. But the Sentimentalism of his letters, its emotional register, still startles the modern reader. This revealing collection helps us see that how one writes letters is only a small part of who one is."—Caryl Emerson, Princeton University

“This collection of finely translated letters, documents, and musical mementos moves Tchaikovsky considerably beyond the vapid biographical clichés of yesteryear. Turns out, the genius was also a human being —funny, coarse, germaphobic, borderline alcoholic, with great friends and supportive siblings. Gay? Fine by them.”—Simon Morrison, Princeton University

"This indispensable volume, containing copious unpublished private correspondence, allows us to gain an unparalleled insight into Tchaikovsky as a human being, and thus move beyond the clichés surrounding the composer’s biography." —Rosamund Bartlett, author of Tolstoy: A Russian Life