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November 12, 2009 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Tchaikovsky might be a favorite for name-dropping know-it-alls, but many people are at a loss when it comes to associating his name with his life or works.
Born in 1840, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer whose flamboyant melodies were complemented by exciting orchestration and harmonies. “A lot of people like to associate this (sound) with the details of his personal life,” says Michael Budds, an MU professor of music history and literature. Meaning — Tchaikovsky was a closet homosexual.
For part of his life, Tchaikovsky had a sugar mama, Patroness Nadezhda von Meck, who helped fund his musical career. If she hadn’t, three famous ballets might never have been composed: Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty.
“It’s fortuitous that he was where he was and had the skills he had,” Budds says. Tchaikovsky worked with noted choreographer Marius Pepia in a time when lavish patronage helped realize composers’ spectacular ideas.
It is documented that Tchaikovsky died from cholera, but one theory holds that he committed suicide. Regardless of his talent or impact on Russian music and ballet, he died alone and unfulfilled.
And now, all you Tchaikovsky name-droppers can work with a little extra material.