Boris Tchaikovsky



Born: September 10, 1925; Moscow, Russia   Died: February 6, 1996; Moscow, Russia  
Russian composer Boris Tchaikovsky wasn't related to Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky; he was born to parents in the civil service who were expert amateur musicians who encouraged him into a musical career. At age nine Tchaikovsky entered the Gniessen Primary School of Music where he studied piano and had his first lessons in composition. He then moved into the school's specialized division that brought him into contact with composer Vissarion Shebalin. Read more At age 18, Tchaikovsky matriculated to the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied composition with Nikolay Myaskovsky; he also continued with Shebalin as before and attended classes conducted by Dmitry Shostakovich. When Shostakovich was censured during Zhdanov's purge of the composer's union in 1948, Tchaikovsky refused to go along with many of his colleagues who joined in renouncing Shostakovich, even though such a stance might have led Soviet cultural officials to regard him as "contaminated." Ironically, it was Zhdanov himself who was scrubbed out of the situation before 1948 was even over, and the risk Tchaikovsky took actually bolstered his reputation for integrity. When Tchaikovsky graduated in 1949, Myaskovsky wrote a glowing recommendation: "Boris Tchaikovsky is already a very good composer, with a good technique and a creative individuality that is beyond doubt."

Tchaikovsky initially worked in Soviet radio, but by 1952 resigned in order to write concert music and scores for film and television. In 1953, Tchaikovsky scored his first "hit" with the Sinfonietta for Strings, and in 1969 his Symphony No. 2 earned him the USSR State Prize. It was in the 1960s, with its slight thaw concerning individual freedoms, when Tchaikovsky began to develop his mature style, which opened up formal and thematic concepts within a traditionally tonal and distinctly Russian framework. While Tchaikovsky's music was greatly admired within the Soviet Union and was featured on more than 20 Melodiya albums within his own lifetime, the West was more interested in avant-garde productions and Tchaikovsky's music gained little traction outside the Soviet Union.

In the last 15 years left to him, Tchaikovsky managed to open up a new dimension in his work; as his colleague Andrei Golivin described it, "(Tchaikovsky's) style has crystallized into being, into super solid matter." In his late work, Tchaikovsky's music does not make use of strong thematic ideas so much as it consists of sensations and impressions strung together in a meaningful, but not conventionally dramatic, way. This trend began with his Sebastopol Symphony (1980) and continued until his death in 1996. Tchaikovsky was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1985, and from 1989 he was a professor of composition at the Russian Academy of Music. Aware of the neglect that awaited Tchaikovsky's music both outside Russia, and potentially inside due to the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991, a group of Tchaikovsky's former students founded the Boris Tchaikovsky Society in 2002. Its mandate is to promote, propagate, and preserve his music, which, in addition to the symphonic music he is known for, is rich in concerti, film and television music, chamber music, and piano music, in addition to one opera, The Star (1949), and a small amount of vocal music. Read less

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