Musical Musings

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky and the Ladies

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was a Russian composer whose music and lifestyle was much gossiped about. For starters, we don't truly know how he died. He either died from drinking un-boiled water tainted with Cholera, his physicians killed him, or he killed himself slowly with arsenic as he was gay in a time and place that didn't accept it.

We will never truly know (though, our bet is on Cholera).

As a gay man, his relationships with women were quite complex. In 1877, he began a lengthy correspondence with an older woman who provided for him financially for 13 years and whose only stipulation was that they never meet. (Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, huh?)

Nazedha von MeckIndeed, Tchaikovsky couldn't bring himself to utter one word to his benefactress, Nazedha von Meck, the one time they met in a chance encounter. Nowadays, we would call them online lovers.

Over the year, they exchanged some 1,200 letters. The two were also connected through family: Tchaikovsky's niece Anna married von Meck's son Nikolai. This union was arranged by von Meck and Tchaikovsky themselves, however it was an unhappy arrangement. Interestingly, Tchaikovsky and von Meck died within two months of each other.

Antonina Miliukova1877 was a big year for Tchaikovsky. The same year that he began corresponding with von Meck, he hastily married a highly unstable woman, Antonina Miliukova, who wrote him loads of fan mail. (There's still hope for you Justin Timberlake fans — keep writing!)

There must have been a big misunderstanding: he thought she knew he was gay and that their marriage would be strictly platonic. When he realized this was not the case, his distress caused a near nervous breakdown. Two weeks after the marriage he attempted suicide. She eventually died in an insane asylum 24 years later. But, they never officially divorced.

Too bad Reality Television didn't exist at the turn of the century, or else we would all be watching Keeping Up with Tchaikovsky on E!

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