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Tchaikovsky: The Tragic Life of a Musical Genius

4.1 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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(May 27, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Tchaikovsky (2007)

Conductor Charles HAZLEWOOD travels to Russia in search of the real Tchaikovsky, an elusive figure who's long been painted as a hypersensitive neurotic and whose musical reputation as suffered. Hazlewood brings his insight as a conductor to delve into the secrets of Tchaikovsky's greatness.


Special Features

  • Bonus feature: "Omnibus: Who Killed Tchaikovsky?" a 1993 BBC special presentation examining the controversy surrounding Tchaikovsky's death

Product Details

  • Actors: Various
  • Directors: Various
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: Unknown
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 27, 2008
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001451HWA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,501 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Tchaikovsky: The Tragic Life of a Musical Genius" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Despite the fact that this BBC documentary/drama is extremely watchable, it is also extremely flawed. Great life, great music - how can one go wrong? Well, our guide through Russia and Tchaikovsky's life - conductor Charles Hazelwood - takes one stroll too many, pops up a bit too often with many banal commentaries and if I had to watch him conduct one more time, I probably would have had to put the DVD on pause and take a break. (Come to think of it, in the recreations of Tchaikovsky's life, why are there no scenes of Ed Stoppard as the famous composer conducting? Maybe Hazelwood did not want to share his beloved baton? As to Ed Stoppard, his performance - unlike Tchaikovsky's music - is decidedly one-note.) Anyway, too much Hazelwood, no mention of T's extended family, no info as to his wife's eventual sad fate, no account of T's early suicide attempt (hauntingly captured in Ken Russell's biopic),not a wisper of "The Nutcracker" and no exploration of the mystery of how T actually died. The filmed flashback takes his brother's account as gospel, even though his recollections are historically suspect (as pointed out in this disc's terrific extra). As to the filmed flashbacks, they are extremely reminiscent of scenes from Ken Russell's "The Music Lovers" - as another reviewer here perfectly pointed out. The movie with Richard Chamberlain (despite some historical inaccuracies and compressions) is actually a much better take on Tchaikovsky than is this BBC production.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
This is a two-hour BBC production from 2007 which originally aired in two parts. The DVD presents both parts separately as originally broadcast in the UK.

Mixing a documentary approach, dramatic recreations featuring actors, and conductor Charles Hazlewood conducting a young Russian orchestra performing Tchaikovsky in modern-day, this BBC production flows seamlessly and will immerse any viewer looking for historical coverage of Tchaikovsky, as well as other viewers simply looking for a dramatic tale of an historical legend. All the important aspects of Tchaikovsky's life and music are touched on, and the music is always given its time to breathe and enthrall. The only small quibble is that the sequences showing host-narrator Hazlewood conducting the modern orchestra are somewhat laughable. His conducting just comes off as a bit ridiculous looking (and I'm trying to be nice here) - otherwise, Hazlewood's host-narration segments are exemplary.

I'm a huge fan of Ken Russell's 1970 film THE MUSIC LOVERS starring Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson (an incredible film that has many sequences recreated in this BBC production) and only hope that someday MGM will finally release a widescreen DVD edition of that film (although I've only been waiting 10 years already so I'm not holding my breath). If you haven't seen the film, seek out a dub off the old 2.35:1 widescreen laserdisc version as the old VHS is horribly pan-and-scanned and ruins all the compositions. The film may not get every historical detail correct and has been criticized for that, but it's still an amazing visual and musical tour-de-force that delivers the complete essence of Tchaikovsky and his music. It's an absolute masterpiece of filmmaking.
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Format: DVD
A fantastic journey through the best of the best of this composer, ending with his death just weeks after his last composition which became his requiem. At the height of his brilliance he was a world wide known "rock star" of his time, but a star without any of the freedoms we know today. His nanny said he was fragile as glass; he also appears as brittle as glass, and each thing that he wrote, each deed he did for society's sake, each love he lost -- all put a crack in that brittle glass of this great man. I dare say even those unschooled in symphony, will still recognize the music in this movie. An all time great biography, coupled with a musical journey. I loved it.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This film, produced by the BBC, combines musical performances of several select works by Tchaikovsky along with a commentary by a conductor which are further enhanced with dramatizations of key scenes from the life of the great composer. This is a very effective format to explore the life and works of Tchaikovsky. The director, Matthew Whiteman, explores a hypothesis that the tensions and double life that Tchaikovsky lead can be detected in his music. This is the only weakness in the film in that the works of Tchaikovsky appear to be far from transparent interpretations of the struggles he encountered as a closeted gay man attempting to hide his homosexuality as his international fame increased.
Performances of the piano concerto, the violin concerto, the 4th, 5th, and 6th Symphonies, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and the Nutcracker are integrated into the life sequences. The case is made that whereas opera has many great composers, Tchaikovsky is the great composer for ballet. Tchaikovsky's homosexuality is depicted fairly and realistically as a part of this great man that he found difficult to integrate into his ever increasing fame. However, to interpret his music in terms of his closeted lifestyle seemed to me to be over analytical and not accurate.
Ed Stoppard plays an understated Tchaikovsky, which is excellent since so much of the drama is in the music. I was impressed with the very sad childhood of the composer, sent to a boy's school for future civil servants (what a terrible thought). I was also impressed with the relationships between the composer and his younger brother, who was also gay, and who was a life long confidant of the composer.
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