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Tchaikovsky's Greatest Fan


Madame von Meck was Tchaikovsky's patron. Her patronage made his immense output possible. Tchaikovsky was an eccentric who lived a life worthy of a fantasy in a child's book. He was extremely neurotic and given to crying fits.

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Once, when visiting New York, he checked into a hotel and made himself at home. First he sat down and wept "rather long." He then walked quietly along Broadway, returning to his room where he, "started whimpering again several times." This was for no particular reason, by his own account.

It is likely that much of the voluptuous music Tchaikovsky created would never have been written were it not for Madame von Meck. She was a wealthy Russian heiress who became Tchaikovsky's greatest fan and secret patron.

Play His First Piano Concerto

b7 ("flat seven") is the black key in between 6 and 7
Concerto #1
| * * 8 * 6 * 5 * | 4 * * * 6 * * 5 | b7 * * * * 6  3  4  | 2 * 5 * * 6 2 * * * |

The Fan Letter

It began when Madame von Meck wrote Tchaikovsky a fan letter, in which she told him of her love for his music. She offered him a generous yearly allowance with the sole proviso that they were never to meet. They followed this rather strange pledge even though they were within sight of each other at concerts and parties in Moscow.

For fourteen years Madame von Meck secretly sent Tchaikovsky a huge yearly stipend, allowing him to write without hindrance the music the world now loves, especially his children's masterpiece, the Nutcracker Suite.

They Wrote But Never Met

They corresponded regularly, if not voluminously, leaving a legacy of personal letter writing rivaled only by that of Mozart. At first she longed to meet him, but with the passing of years decided to experience him only through his music and letters.

Tchaikovsky agreed, telling her that he could never live up to what she might imagine him to be. Yet she was his confidante in their letters, and he poured out his heart to her as he could to few others.

Their Only Meeting Was Brief

They peeked at each other out of the corner of their eyes at concerts, and even met in a hurried encounter in a concert hall corridor. Both blushed deeply, and fumbled in embarrassment.

Finally Tchaikovsky hurriedly raised his hat, and Madame von Meck fluttered away. And that was the only time the woman who financed the Nutcracker Suite ever met the composer. They never saw each other again.


Music History

What Killed the Golden Age of the Piano

Carl Tausig Cooks His Cat

I Meet Aaron Copland

George Sand Killed Chopin

Why Brahms Must Have Been Fat

Artur Rubinstein Was A Vampire

Igor Stravinsky Loses His Cool

Vladimir Horowitz Goes To The Racetrack

Beethoven Was No Beauty

The World’s Largest Blue Danube Waltz

Was Mozart Murdered?

Beethoven’s Rage Over A Lost Penny

Franz Schubert, The First Bohemian

Chopin’s Singing Piano Tone

Stravinsky’s Good Luck

Hector Berlioz and the Orchestral Train Wreck

Piano Lessons with Papa Bach

Piano Lessons with Frederic Chopin

The Great Piano Craze of 1910

The American Piano Wars

Why Hugo Wolf Went Insane

Rachmaninoff and the Evolution of Pop Songs

Musical Feuds

Piano In The Past Was Better

The Master’s Hands

Einstein’s Piano

Einstein’s Violin Improvisations In Gypsy Style

A History of Piano and Numbers

Ryan Seacrest’s Piano Concerto #2

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