Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week: the musical genius of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who died on this day in 1893
THE BASICS The Russian composer of symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, instrumental and chamber music and more is known by everyone who has had even minimal exposure to classical music. Enormously popular with the public for such works as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker Suite, Romeo And Juliet and the 1812 Overture.
THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM Second only to Beethoven in audience esteem. Lyrical, melodic, rhythmic, playful. The masterful epitome of the Romantic era. Appeals even to children and men.
THE DISSENTING OPINION Vulgar, simplistic, anti-intellectual. Overly sensual and emotional and entirely undisciplined. Too European, not enough Russian. Cannons on stage? Please. Obligatory Nutcracker attendance winter after winter? Every parent's dread.
THE CONVERSATION Poor Pyotr (or Peter, if you insist) led a life of turmoil and died prematurely and suddenly at the age of 53. Officially he died of cholera but some suspect suicide. His lifelong weltschmertz began with the death of his mother when he was 14. Gripped by inner conflict about his sexuality, beset by depression, the victim of a disastrous marriage, he turned to music and achieved acclaim and affirmation from concertgoers, even as the haughty critics scorned and dismissed him. Just because millions of people like something doesn't necessarily mean it merits contempt, does it?