Tchaikovsky and Romantic Period Term Paper

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Tchaikovsky and Romantic Period


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The artifacts which reveal the most about our society give us information not only about the culture in which it was created and the place the creator held within that society, but also show us a reflection of that culture through the eyes of the creator. Some of the greatest pieces of music are also the most valuable artifacts. Although Western music from a wide range of time is grouped together as "Classical" by the general public, the Classical era was actually quite short in comparison to other musical eras, and very few Classical composers remain known today. A good deal of the composers associated with Classical music, such as Beethoven, Paganini, Schubert, and Verdi among many others, are actually composers of the Romantic Era, which spanned the years between 1815 and 1910. Among the most remarkable and memorable composers that lived and worked during the Romantic Era, the Russian musician Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was among the most notable. His work remains well-known and loved today, performed by the top orchestras and performers, and certain pieces of his will be recognized by any person, even those without any working knowledge of art music. The music of Tchaikovsky is a brilliant example of the Romantic period, and the work reflects aspects of romantic art and society. "Unbridled best describes the music of Tchaikovsky. His sensitive nature produced lush melodies and intense emotion that have yet to be rivaled." (NPRN) Tchaikovsky's troubled life and often tormented mind was a perfect reflection of the emotional turmoil for which many composers of his day, as well as every other era, strove to express, but his work was truly inspired and driven by his life experiences. Tchaikovsky's work was quite revolutionary, but at the same time retained strong roots in established music; a perfect artifact of the romantic period to be examined today.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Tchaikovsky and Romantic Period Assignment

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840, the second born son to a Russian family living in Vyatka. He was one of five brothers, including a pair of twins to whom Tchaikovsky was particularly close to his pair of younger twin brothers, and also to his younger sister. He was also very fond of his mother, who sadly died when he was just a young boy of fourteen years old. When his mother was driving in a carriage to another city and leaving him alone at school in St. Petersburg, he has to be physically restrained while she got into the carriage because he did not want to see her go, and as soon as he broke free from the restraints he ran to the wheels and held them to try to prevent her from leaving. (Mason) This can be seen as an example of the heartbreaking devotion, love, and desperation that would continue throughout his life, and be expressed through his music. His heart and mind were often in disagreement about what the best course of action would be -- perhaps part of the reason that he would criticize his own compositions with such scrutiny and passionately destroy manuscripts that displeased his intellect despite their emotional significance. During his early childhood, the instance of passionately kissing Russia on a map while spitting on the other countries, being careful to cover up the printed area of France because his nurse whom he loved very much was French, can be seen as foreshadowing for his adult persona. The so-called dichotomy of his being is illustrated by " his intense emotionality in all personal matters, his headstrong impetuosity, leaping first and looking afterwards; on the other his candor and modesty, his intelligent acceptance of criticism, even his carefulness and good workmanship," (Mason) all of which characterized him as a profound and exemplary Romantic composer.

After his mother's death, Tchaikovsky's father sent him to a civil-service/military boarding school where he was expected to study law and spend his career in that line of work. However, at the age of twenty years old, he abandoned his clerk job at the Ministry of Justice, and began to study music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music. His family protested fervently, but that mattered not to him, for after witnessing Mozart's Don Giovanni, he knew that he had no choice but to pursue a life dedicated to music. He has a particular knack for improvisation from the start, showing a "rich sense of harmony" and head for dance-rhythms. (Mason) However, he was noticeably undereducated in the area of music. Basic music theory concepts and works by well-known composers were not necessary for his education to begin, for he frequented the Italian operas that played in Russia, and he had the drive and the passion.

Tchaikovsky had a number of inspirational mentors and teachers throughout his life that encouraged his passion for music and inspired his work. His childhood tutor, Fanny Durbach, was a mentor during his childhood and throughout his adult life as well, keeping in contact with him via letter. She was among the first to describe the child as sensitive -- a label which would follow him in biographical accounts until the present day. He was emotionally charged, empathetic, and delicate, and he would react severely to any kind of punishment because for him it was so upsetting to displease and to be reprimanded. However, Durbach noticed more than sensitivity -- he was also deeply loyal. Once when she reprimanded the boy and his brother for doing poorly on a school assignment by expressing doubt that they truly loved their father for wasting the money he was spending on their education, Pyotr cried and professed his love for his father for a full day, the incident hardly affecting his brother, while the composer cried himself to sleep that night. (Brown, 6) Durbach was also the witness to his early struggles with musical obsession. "After work or long periods of letting his imaginations loose at the piano he was always very nervy and on edge," recounted his tutor. "Once the Tchaikovskys had guests, and the whole evening was spent in musical entertainment... some time later he...was weeping agitatedly. 'O, it's the music!' But there was not music to be heard at the moment. 'Get rid of it for me! it's here, here,' said the boy, weeping and pointing to his head. 'It won't give me any peace!' " (Brown 8)

Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein, the pianist and composer, was the founder of St. Petersburg Conservatoire which Tchaikovsky attended, and became an extremely important mentor for him. (Garden) He was more than a school master, but someone who worked closely with Tchaikovsky as he developed his talent. When Tchaikovsky presented him with his overture "The Storm," Rubinstein was hurt and offended, and told his student that it was not for the development of imbeciles that he taught composition. (Mason) the student's sensitive nature must have made this an incredibly painful confrontation, it was also an inspiration for him to strive for his best. Sensitivity aside, Tchaikovsky recognized good criticism and critique. Once when Rubinstein gave him an assignment to complete variations on a piece, Tchaikovsky outdid himself and stayed up all night completing two hundred variations on the piece. (Mason) Rubentein's own work was only mildly successful, but it is through his student and lifelong acquaintance that he has truly touched audiences today. Rubenstein was succeeded as the Director of the Conservatoire by Nicholas Ivanovich Zaremba, who had also been an important mentor for Tchaikovsky while the young man was still employed as a Justice Clerk. Zaremba, in fact, came to St. Petersburg to teach at the same time Tchaikovsky came to study, and he had been a large influencing factor in the composer's determination to pursue music and composition as a professional career. As Rubenstein was the teacher of composition that would influence Tchaikovksy's entire musical career, Zaremba was the teacher of music theory that made the largest impression for the boy.

The Romantic period in music spanned the majority of the 1800s. Born out of the Classical period, Romantic music explored new ground and broke a lot of the Classical rules. The Form and structure of Classical were no longer mandatory in this new musical style, although the greatest respect was paid to the musical masters of yesterday, and many elements from Classical music were respectfully given homage to in this new movement. The Romantic era brought large ensembles, extreme emotion, and vibrant orchestration -- just a few of the new musical traits that separated the Romantic from its parents. Some of the characteristics that can be see throughout Romantic music include the long, lyrical melodies that utilized irregular phrasing. Skips in the music that are wide and angular, chronic use of chromaticism, and many melodic ideas or themes would be a part of the Romantic piece. Rhythm was an important part of Romantic music, and changes in the tempo and time signatures were used freely. The music was largely homophonic. Thanks to the influences of the industrial revolution that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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