Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, 1812 Overture

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) was a Russian composer of the Romantic era. While not part of the nationalistic music group known as "The Five", Tchaikovsky wrote music which was distinctly Russian: plangent, introspective, often modal-sounding.

Personal life

Tchaikovsky's homosexuality, as well as its importance to his life and music, has long been theorized. The contention was suppressed during the Soviet era. Historians today are divided. Some historians see the evidence as scanty or non-existent that he was anything but heterosexual. In his Musical Musings Dr. Petr Beckmann sees the assertion of Tchaikovsky's homosexuality as "not without bias, for too often it was done by tone setters who had a stake in the outcome."[1] Others, such as Rictor Norton and Alexander Poznansky, conclude that some of Tchaikovsky's closest relationships were homosexual. The latter group of biographers cite Tchaikovsky's servant Aleksei Sofronov and his nephew, Vladimir "Bob" Davydov, as romantic interests.

How comfortable Tchaikovsky might have been with his sexual nature has been equally debated. One view is that Tchaikovsky loathed his homosexuality, seeing it as a mental or spiritual aberration as much as he indulged in it. Poznansky takes a totally opposite view — that after coming to terms with his sexuality, Tchaikovsky accepted it and had few qualms, if any.

Anthony Holden takes yet another course. He maintains that, after the débacle of his marriage, Tchaikovsky decided not to deny "what I am by nature" (quoting the composer's 1876 letter to his brother nine months prior to the marriage). Though sexually active, the theory goes, Tchaikovsky wanted nonetheless to keep his preferences intensely private and would go to any length to prevent public disclosure.

Beckmann sees the foregoing as unsupported speculation perpetrated by gay activists driven "to develop yet another respectable peg on which to hang the hat of their aberration." Tchaikovsky's having "succumbed to my natural inclinations three times" (the unceasingly cited quotation) may have been any number of things, including his tendency to drunkedness to which he often refers in his diaries.[2]


  1. Petr Beckmann, Musical Musings, Golem Press, August 1989
  2. Ibid.