Exploring Tchaikovsky

25th May 2016

News, Student news, Alumni news

The life and work of the Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is explored in a new biography by Wadham’s Fellow and Tutor in Russian, Philip Ross Bullock.

Drawing extensively on Tchaikovsky's uncensored letters and diaries, Pyotr Tchaikovsky explores the composer's life in the artistic culture of nineteenth-century Russian society, revealing how he became a figure of international renown. Yet Tchaikovsky was often overwhelmed by the social obligations associated with his fame. Setting aside clichés of the composer as a tortured homosexual and naively confessional artist, the book contains accessible introductions to his key compositions, including his operas, symphonies and ballets, as well as suggesting less familiar works for readers to explore.

Author Philip Ross Bullock is Professor of Russian Literature and Music and his principal research interests are in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian culture. He is also a talented pianist and organist and Tchaikovsky has played a central role not only in his academic work but also in his music-making.

Describing this book project, Philip commented: “The book draws on the latest scholarship, but in terms of style, it’s deliberately targeted at a wider, non-specialist audience. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of academic writing, and have presented a number of Radio 3 programmes and even appeared in a German TV documentary about Tchaikovsky last year.

Tchaikovsky has always been central to my work on Russian music – one of my first ever academic articles on music was a study of his songs, so it’s been a pleasure to be able to continue exploring him.”

Pyotr Tchaikovsky is published by Reaktion books and is available in the summer.

More about Philip Ross Bullock

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