Nadezhda von Meck
Patroness and close friend of Tchaikovsky (b. 29 January/10 February 1831 in Znanemskoye, near Smolensk; d. 26 January 1894 in Nice, France), born Nadezhda Filaretovna Frolovskaya (Надежда Филаретовна Фроловская); known after her marriage as Nadezhda Filaretovna fon Mekk (Надежда Филаретовна фон Мекк).
Nadezhda was the eldest child of a wealthy landowner, Filaret Vasilyevich Frolovsky and his wife Anastasiya Dmitriyevna (b. Potemkina). She inherited from her father, an amateur violinist, a passionate love for music, and played the piano rather well.
On 14/26 January 1848 she married the road and railway engineer Karl von Meck (1821–1876), and they had eleven children: Yelizaveta (1848–1907); Aleksandra (1850–1920); Vladimir (1852–1892); Yuliya (1853–1915); Lidiya (1855–1903); Nikolay (1863–1929); Aleksandr (1864–1912); Sofya (1867–1936); Maksimillian (1869–ca.1950); Mikhail (1871–1883); and Lyudmila (1872–1946).
With access to her husband's considerable fortune, Nadezhda gave financial support to the Russian Musical Society and to young musicians, particularly Russians. After the death of her husband in 1876 she tended towards a life of solitude, and her visits to the concerts and the theatre became less and less frequent. Her musical passions were satisfied by a domestic chamber ensemble, comprising a select group of young musicians. These included three of Tchaikovsky's students—Iosif Kotek (violin), Pyotr Danilchenko (cello) and Henryk Pachulski (piano), as well as Claude Debussy (who went on to become a famous French composer), Nikolay Rubinstein and Henryk Wienawski.
Nadezhda von Meck took a great interest in the life of the Moscow Conservatory and the Russian Musical Society, in the course of which she became acquainted with Tchaikovsky's compositions. Their first contact came via Iosif Kotek, who in 1876 asked Tchaikovsky to supply arrangements for his employer's domestic ensemble, in return for a modest fee.
The ensuing correspondence lasted almost fourteen years and comprises several hundred letters. The relationship provided Tchaikovsky with moral support and sincere interest in his artistic career and daily life, as well as a regular financial allowance which freed him to dedicate himself wholly to composition. However, Tchaikovsky and Nadezhda von Meck chose never to meet, even when in 1884 Nadezhda's son Nikolay married Tchaikovsky's niece Anna Davydova.
In 1890 Nadezhda informed Tchaikovsky that she was no longer in a financial position to continue paying his allowance, and that consequently she could not also carry on with their correspondence. This news came as a heavy blow to the composer, even though he was no longer financially dependent on her. It appears that his subsequent letters were returned unanswered, and the reasons for the abrupt end to their correspondence have never been adequately explained.
Tchaikovsky dedicated three of his works to Nadezhda von Meck, although the private nature of their relationship meant that this had to be done secretly. His Symphony No. 4 (1877) was dedicated 'to my best friend'; the set of pieces for violin and piano entitled Souvenir d'un lieu cher (1878) was dedicated to "B" (i.e. his benefactress's estate at Brailov); and the Suite No. 1 (1878–79) was inscribed simply to * * *.
Nadezhda von Meck was reported to be deeply upset by Tchaikovsky's death, and outlived him by only a few months. She died on 26 January 1894 in Nice, France, and was buried in the Novo-Alekseyevsky Cemetery in Moscow.
Tchaikovsky's works dedicated to Nadezhda von Meck:
Tchaikovsky's correspondence with Nadezhda von Meck:
This page was last updated on 14 February 2013