Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tchaikovsky's death

One of the strangest Cholera stories concerns the Russian composer Tchaikovsky who died from cholera in 1893, nine days after the premiere of his Sixth, and probably most famous, Symphony, the Pathétique.

There are no end of theories about how and why this occurred, ranging from an accident to suicide to forced suicide. We do know that on 2 November 1893 Tchaikovsky drank a glass of unboiled water - an unusual event given that by this date the mode of transmission of cholera was well known and a cholera epidemic was underway in Saint Petersburg.

If you'd like to read more about this curious story then you have the choice of the exhaustive detail of Wikipedia: Death of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, a newspaper article from 2007: How did Tchaikovsky die?, a research paper from 2010: The cause of P.I. Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) death: cholera, suicide, or both?, or, my favorite, the Straight Dope: How did Tchaikovsky really die?

And then there's the question of whether the Pathétique was written as a farewell to the world.

After the last rehearsal of the symphony under its composer's baton, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, a talented poet and fervent admirer of the composer, ran into the green room weeping and exclaiming, "What have you done, it's a requiem, a requiem!"

No comments: