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Abstract

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s death and final symphony have long been shrouded in mystery. The well-known myth of the symphony’s program suggests that Tchaikovsky left behind a program for his Sixth, to whose existence he hinted throughout his letters and diaries. However, his original program has not been found and divulged after his death. Musicologists have since attempted to reconstruct it from the clues available, although his vague description of it has led to a wide range of speculations. This task is further complicated by the questionable legitimacy of much of the early scholarship surrounding the issue at hand, presenting today’s scholars with the challenge of separating fact from fiction. This paper will scrutinize musicologist Henry Zajaczkowski’s proposition, which is constructed around repression in the composer’s life, particularly regarding his sexuality and his familial relationships. The paper will also expand on Zajaczkowski’s research, and his refutation of Alexandra Orlova’s 1979 claim that the Russian government forced Tchaikovsky’s suicide. Today, the forced-suicide claim is widely regarded as false, and Tchaikovsky’s death seems to have been nothing more than misfortune. In light of this, the article will point to the impossibility in deciphering the Pathétique symphony’s true program despite the numerous clues that Tchaikovsky has left for us to piece it together.

Keywords

Tchaikovsky, Program Music, Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique", Repression, Suicide

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