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Source of 'most Russian of us all' quote?

Hi there,

I must begin by saying thank you for fashioning such a wonderful resource for all those like me who love and admire the composer's work, and want to know as much as we can about the man.

I have seen this phrase often attributed to Stravinsky, but never when or where he said/wrote it, nor the verbal context. Are you able to shed any light?


Tim Passmore

23/11/2011 00:34

Stravinsky referred to Tchaikovsky in this way in an interview he gave to a reporter from the Spanish newspaper ABC during his visit to Spain in March 1924 for the first performance there of his ballet Pulcinella. This interview is quoted by Carol A. Hess in her book Manuel de Falla and Modernism in Spain, 1898–1936 (Universiy of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 190:

“He [Stravinsky] was content, however, with elucidating for the Spanish public the true nature of Russian music as exemplified in the habitually misunderstood Tchaikovsky. When interviewer A. R. asked, for example, whether he found the 1812 Overture praiseworthy, Stravinsky replied,

No, 1812 is rather hackneyed… pompier, as the French would say. But Nutcracker, Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades, and sections of some of his symphonies are of incomparable rhythmic beauty. Have you noticed the orchestration, so delicate and so original, in Nutcracker? I think criticism has been unfair regarding Tchaikovsky: the admiration that persons of bad taste felt for his work has harmed his reputation among critics. Tchaikovsky is very easy, and for this reason he has been considered common. In reality, he is the most Russian composer of all the musicians of my country.”  (A. R., ‘Un gran compositor: Igor Stravinsky y la música moderna’, ABC, 25 March 1924)

In the original Spanish of the published text of the interview: “No, 1812 es algo cursi y … pompier, como dicen los franceses. Pero Casse-Noisette, Eugenio Onegin, La dame de pique y algunos trozos de sus sinfonías son de una belleza rítmica incomparable. ¿Se ha fijado usted en la orquestación tan delicada y tan original de Casse-Noisette? Estimo que la crítica ha sido injusta para con Chaikovsky; la admiración que sentían por él personas de mal gusto ha perjudicado mucho a su reputación entre los críticos. Chaikovsky es muy fácil y por esto se le ha considerado vulgar. En realidad, es el más ruso entre los músicos de mi país.”

Luis Sundkvist
30/12/2011 23:11

Here are a couple of more comments by Stravinsky on the “Russianness” of Tchaikovsky.

In an open letter to Serge Diaghilev published October 18, 1921 in The Times concerning Diaghilev’s London revival of The Sleeping Beauty, Stravinsky wrote:

“Chaikovsky’s music, which does not appear specifically Russian to everybody, is often more profoundly Russian than music which has long since been awarded the facile label of Muscovite picturesqueness. This music is quite as Russian as Pushkin’s verse or Glinka’s song. While not specifically cultivating in his art the ‘soul of the Russian peasant’, Chaikovsky drew unconsciously from the true, popular sources of our race.” (Translated from the French by Edwin Evans, reprinted in Appendix A of Stravinsky by Eric Walter White. Also quoted in Tchaikovsky by David Brown, Vol.2, p.217.)

David Brown also quotes from the reminiscences of Giacomo Antonini who wrote that Stravinsky told him: “Our greatest opera composer is undoubtedly Tchaikovsky, and the most Russian opera of all is Eugene Onegin…” According to Antonini, Prokofiev agreed with Stravinsky’s comment. (Tchaikovsky by David Brown, vol.2, p.218.)

Marty Wacksman
03/01/2012 18:59

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