Friday, 24 June 2011

None but the Lonely Heart

A wonderfully handsome young Peter Tchaikovsky

I have taught 'Nur wenn die Sehnsucht kennt' by Tchaikovsky a number of times in my career, and every so often it pops up again, either as a suitable filler in a second half group of accessible Romantic songs, or because the exam boards find it after a decade of relegation !

I was teaching it yesterday, and I realised once again, that the much maligned Tchaikovsky could write a great melody. He is often thought of as a composer who could not 'develop a tune' - great tunes but they keep coming back - when like a bolt of melodic lightening I realised that that is his greatness. The fact his tunes are so memorable, means they are so satisfying, and ultimately why they have such enduring appeal.

It was a young lady who is 17 this weekend who was singing it, and even at that age, and with little experience of the passage of time and life, she understands the sheer 'loneliness' of the melody line, the darkness of the sentiment and the pathos of the intervals of a 7th which repeat over and over. She is singing it in English, not Russian or German, and even given the less than stellar translation, the central core essence of the sad and dejected character which we know was Tchaikovsky's lot in life, comes over loud and clear. I was truly moved by her fearless performance.

In my early teaching career I taught in a convent school in Littlehampton, West Sussex, now sadly no longer. The Headmistress was Sr Francis, whose real name was Olga Schotogoleff, although I cannot remember the exact spelling. She was a child during the Russian Revolution and her father was a Count at the court of the last Csar Nicholas II. Her mother knew, and moved in the social circles of Nadhezdha von Meck, the patron of Tchaikovsky. She and her brother escaped via the White Russian trail, eventually arriving in Paris, where she converted to Catholicism from Russian Orthodox, and from thence became a nun. Very infrequently she would talk about her childhood and that amazing time in the history of Russia, and I always felt so inspired to think I was in some small way, 'touching' history. She encapsulated the end of an era, forever lost, and only to be found in history books.

There are more musical anecdotes which I will tell you about in future blogs. Suffice to say today - I knew a wonderful lady whose mother's hand was kissed by Peter Tchaikovsky. Thrilling indeed.

Nikita Storojev, romance "Net, tol'ko tot kto znal..." (Piotr Tchaikovsky)
Live concert recording
In Russian, and full of Russian passion and pain.

1 comment:

  1. I remember singing that piece - about a century ago :) 17 sounds like a good age for it - full of angst and insecurities....
    I've not heard it in Russian before - much superior to the horrible english translation I used.

    viv in nz