May 7, 2010—Tchaikovsky’s 170th birthday. Noted all over the world today because it inspired Google to put up an icon depicting Swan Lake.
(In my mind’s ear, I hear a young voice saying in a few weeks—Tchaikovsky?—isn’t he that guy Google did the ballet picture about? If the young voice remembers at all.)
I hope it does, as Tchaikovsky is a composer who is particularly appealing to the young. At least, I always loved him as a child. (Since I seem fixed in perpetual childishness, that also means now.) His mix of soar and sentimentality, the accessible and the exotic, really excited me. I had an LP (a big black record!) of his “greatest hits” that I used to play repeatedly in our basement—this was a particularly good place to dance around as there were no mirrors, and few visitors.
I loved dancing to Tchaikovsky’s ballet music—it seemed to call up grace (or, at least, imagined grace). It is music that extends and curves one’s arms, that supports an uplifted spine, that points the toes, twirls the body, makes one feel correspondingly light and beautiful.
One does not usually group Tchaikovsky with those composers that died at a crazily young age–Mozart and Chopin—but Tchaikovsky was only 53 at the time of his death. He came to his own as a professional musician relatively late (at least compared to Mozart, ha! Who didn’t? ), spending his school years at the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg (poor guy!) Though his musical genius was well recognized after he began composing, his life was tinged with melancholy and crisis, many suspecting that his sudden death resulted from suicide. This is hard to believe based on the music alone. Tthough it does have a minor or somber quality, it is also often embued with a sweet and enthusiastic cheer.
Changing the subject—abruptly—I saw a raccoon in Central Park this evening. Seriously! With mask and ringed tail, scratching its way up the bark of a Central Park Tree. Stopping to stare down at us with typical New Yorker attitude (meaning we felt that we shouldn’t stare back too long)
It was my husband who truly sighted the raccoon—telling me that he’d been watching it for a while but hadn’t wanted to say anything till he was sure of exactly what it was. (I have a phobia of r–s. Hint–another animal that begins with “R” more common in Central Park.)
I thanked him for his restraint.
When we listened to Tchaikovsky later, he mentioned that I must have had a really hard time with the Nutcracker Ballet.
It took me a while to understand what he was getting at. (I’ve blocked all those big grey saggy dancers out. Especially their tails.)
Suddenly, Tchaikovsky did not seem quite so cheerful.