Tchaikovsky: Tchaikovsky’s Women; Fate

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Allegro Films
WORKS: Two Films: Tchaikovsky’s Women; Fate
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy, Cynthia Harvey, Mark Silver, Helen Field, Clarry Bartha; Swedish Radio SO
CATALOGUE NO: A 10CD D (NTSC system; Dolby 2.0; 4:3 picture format)

Even the self-confident Christopher Nupen might have had doubts about releasing his 1989 Tchaikovsky films on DVD. Any necessarily selective documentary which ends by telling us its subject ‘died of poison procured for him by his important friends and taken at their insistence’ seems offensive in the we-still-don’t-know climate of the 2000s. 

  What’s more reprehensible is that in upholding his thesis about Tchaikovsky’s idealisation of women – true up to a point – Nupen only introduces the word ‘homosexual’ 40 minutes into his film. It remains a cloudy miasma to be avoided and ultimately punished in an unremittingly tragic view of this multifaceted composer’s life. Instead, the marriage with Antonina Milyukova is accountable as a mother-substitute situation, and the ‘passionate’ and ‘intense’ aspects of the correspondence with Nadezhda von Meck are overplayed.  

Nupen ignores the fact that Tchaikovsky was as fascinated with Romeo as with Juliet, with Siegfried as with Odette, with Paolo as with Francesca (the betrayed husband, surely, is Malatesta and not Rimini). Tchaikovsky’s homosexual coterie and lovers get no mention; only Josef Kotek pops up as the ‘young friend’ who introduced him to Von Meck, and Bob Davydov belatedly, and in passing, as his ‘favourite nephew’.  


Best are the chunks of the symphonies vividly conducted, in good sound, by Ashkenazy. The two sopranos, Clarry Bartha and Helen Field, look pretty and act convincingly but sound thin up top. The budget must have gone on this, for Nupen does all the voice-overs, there are no location sequences and the graphics wouldn’t pass muster today. David Nice