July 01, 2000

Examining the Icon

For Russians, Tchaikovsky is like Pushkin — just another sacred cultural figure — but in the field of music. He was the composer of Russian classical music, the idol of many a pianist and conductor ... His monument is in front of the Moscow Conservatory. His name was given to the world’s most popular musical contest ... And, just like Pushkin, he was a real man, with real weaknesses and passions—some of which did not quite fit into traditional Russian or Soviet moral norms. 

In the early 1990s, when the gates of glasnost burst open, the local press and critical literature was flooded with speculative publications that savored facts about Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality. The authors, often to the detriment of the composer’s musical merits, focused on this hitherto hidden part of his life, speculating on the true causes of his death, etc. 

Now that the archives have been open for a number of years, the dust is beginning to settle and both scholars and popular magazines such as ours can seek out a balanced interpretation of this great Russian’s life, free of hyperbole or hysteria. That task brought us to Klin, where Tchaikovsky resided for the last eight-and-a-half years of his life and where thousands of precious documents are archived. The director of the House-Museum, Galina Belonovich, who has worked there since 1973, has lived through many different periods of “tchaikovskovedeniye” – the study of Tchaikovsky. She agreed to meet with Russian Life Publisher Paul Richardson and Editor Mikhail Ivanov, to answer our questions about Tchaikovsky’s life and work.

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