Beethoven and Tchaikovsky’s Final Symphonies: Comparative Analysis

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Nicole
Music 122
Dr.
December 5, 2012

Beethoven and Tchaikovsky’s Final Symphonies: Comparative Analysis

Although from different eras, embracing different styles, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky can both be identified as two of the most influential, emotional composers. As men they were alike in the profound emotion put into everything they did. They both had emotional issues though Beethoven was angrier, and frustrated while Tchaikovsky was quite depressed and always had feelings of guilt following him (Abraham p.20). It’s likely that they both had some sort of serious psychological disorders. While Beethoven was prone to fits of rage and paranoia, Tchaikovsky would have episodes of extreme depression, guilt, and self pity. This is believed to be attributed to his homosexual tendencies that were socially unacceptable in his lifetime. Tchaikovsky was also a very religious man which probably created a lot of his guilt issues. Both had peculiar eccentricities that severely affected their lives and the outcome of their careers. There are many differences in the two composer’s lives but when looking at the central, driving force of their lives you see that they were motivated largely by emotions so strong that they were constantly on the verge of madness. Music served the same purposes for these men. It was a means of survival financially, emotionally, and creatively. To not express the things inside of them would leave them to fester into madness. These men found solace in composing and probably would have lived much more miserably if they hadn’t embraced their gift.

Beethoven was a serious man of uneven temperament. He had a hard time keeping apartments because he was so noisy, dirty, and destructive. His neighbors often complained about the noise, so he was asked by landlords to leave. It is said that he was amazingly clumsy, and no piece of furniture that he owned could survive long. He was always prone to dropping things, and his chunky fingers had no grace except when at the piano. He lived simply, and in complete disorder (Komroff p. 91). This was exacerbated in his middle years by the onset of his deafness, failing health, and personal crisis. He was very proud, ill mannered, and irritable. Likely because the people around him could not understand his genius making him often look at them as lesser intellectuals. He was very famous in his lifetime, and people put up with his peculiarities because of his popularly loved music.

Tchaikovsky was also a man of uneven temperament. Some have even theorized that he had a severe case of manic depression. In the sixth symphony you can sense his spontaneous emotional changes. The range of feeling and atmosphere jumps all around from relaxed to lilting, dancelike, jolly, frantic, frenzied, scary, regal, tragic, pretty, graceful, ominous and countless others, all just in the first movement. This is a good portrait of the always unstable emotions of the tortured genius.

The death of his mother at a young age gave Tchaikovsky forever lasting maternal longings that he could never satisfy. He had a few relationships with women, but could never have romantic feelings for them. Romance is not what he sought in women. It was a mother figure that he wanted. This longing shows in his compositions. His symphonies all have a ballet like quality which is always alluding to the prima ballerina which signifies the mother role. One can always sense the delicate feminine feel to his music (Abraham p. 20). We can hear this throughout the sixth symphony with his many dancelike passages. However they can never remain and always turn into an atmosphere of sadness, and dread.

In comparison, Beethoven loved several women very intensely, but his fortune in love was abysmal. He had a habit of falling in love with women whom he could never have, mostly women who were above his social ranking. Although the monarchies accepted him and supported him, it was purely for his art. On...
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