Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) wasn’t just a sensitive soul, he was very much a tortured one as well. He purposely stayed deep in the closet for years, wrestling with his sexual identity and other issues, which left him in a constant state of depression, and almost certainly suffered from bipolar disorder. Earlier this morning while listening to Tempo With Julie Nesrallah on CBC Radio 2, she told the story of a traumatic experience Tchaikovsky had while visiting a zoo one day. He was fascinated by the huge boa constrictor which he stared at for quite some time, but his fascination turned to horror when a small rabbit was released into the cage and the snake lunged at it with lightning speed, slowly clawing the bunny down its throat with its powerful teeth and jaws. Tchaikovsky began to freak out, sobbing so uncontrollably that the people he was with had to take him back to his hotel room and calm him down. Tchaikovsky’s empathy for that innocent little creature brought him to his knees, perhaps because he identified on a deep level with that bunny. One of my favorite Tchaikovsky works is his Symphony No.6, and as you listen to the 4th movement below, try and wrap yourself in his music and his mind for a few minutes. Whatever it was that led Tchaikovsky to compose his greatest masterpieces, his life experience was very much like an extended version of what he witnessed in that cage. I like to think his music was his way of breaking free.
SEE ALSO: How A Spring In Florence & A Pot Of Violets Inspired Tchaikovsky’s “Italian Capriccio”
SEE ALSO: How Tchaikovsky’s Suppressed Homosexuality And Traumatic Years In The Closet Led To His Symphony No.4