1st Edition

Tchaikovsky's Pathétique and Russian Culture

ISBN 9781138250345
Published October 19, 2016 by Routledge
184 Pages

USD $62.95

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Book Description

Tchaikovskyʼs Sixth Symphony (1893), widely recognized as one of the worldʼs most deeply tragic compositions, is also known for the mystery surrounding its hidden programme and for Tchaikovskyʼs unexpected death nine days after its premiere. While the sensational speculations about the composerʼs possible planned suicide and the suggestion that the symphony was intended as his own requiem have long been discarded, the question of its programme remains.



Marina Ritzarev is an Israeli musicologist of Russian background. She has contributed to research in eighteenth-century Russian music, including biographies of Dmitry Bortniansky and Maxim Berezovsky, and study of choral spiritual concerto. She is the author of Eighteenth-Century Russian Music (Ashgate 2006), a biography of Sergei Slonimsky, and articles developing the theory of vernacular in music. She is Professor of Bar-Ilan University and President of the Israeli Musicological Society.


’The Russo-Israeli scholar Marina Ritzarev’s new study brings a stimulating new take on Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony which the composer himself surrounded with an aura of secrecy ... With commendable intellectual honesty she presents her subject as entirely an hypothesis, and whether one agrees with it or not, the undertaking was surely worthwhile for its bold thought-provoking engagement with this well-worn symphonic warhorse’. The Musical Times ’The book offers a new, fresh angle, which, while safely grounded in factual and historical research into Russian culture, does not lose the imaginative and innovative touch that provides interest and excitement to the reading process. ... Free from the shackles of pure positivism, she asks puzzling questions, and succeeds in providing quite convincing answers. She constructs a contextualized story. Her imaginative writing is not just let loose to run wild but, like a good detective story, is based on connecting small pieces of a large puzzle, creating a picture that is both convincing and entrancing, consistently and meticulously keeping a non-judgmental, curious, open-to-new-ideas approach. The result is fascinating. ... She points at the deep admiration that Tchaikovsky felt toward the human figure of Jesus, proposing a program for the symphony: the story of the Passion of Christ. This is an extremely daring scheme of interpretation. Ritzarev lifts the gauntlet she had thrown to herself and, dedicating to it the second half of her book, engages in a meticulous and thorough description and analysis of the symphony, connecting the dots and attaching one piece to the other, forming a coherent picture of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony as a musical storytelling of the Passion.’ Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online ’Marina Ritzarev’s new interpretation of the symphony is just the latest attempt at solving the riddle and in many ways, it is an auspicious project. ... Blessedly, Ritzarev dispenses with t