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20. Tchaikovsky: 6th Symphony, “Pathétique”

son-of-a-bitch, I don’t know why
late at night he keeps playing
the Pathétique.
he plays it as I sit here naked
as a pink pig
while I type.
I get through the days. now
down at this radio station the host
(I don’t know his name)
keeps playing the Pathétique late at night
which only reminds me of the
billions of bones buried in the earth
and of
all my x-girlfriends now with other

honeysuckle summer madness.

the day has now passed into night.
night is when I think of going
quietly to bed,
letting the starlight puzzle over
my senseless life;
I don’t want any heavy
I don’t want to be reminded of
the rankness of
it makes me
fitful and inept 
this nameless host at the radio station
this son-of-a-bitch
I turn the radio off and
when I look down there’s a spider
walking across my desk.
he’s just walking along
by himself
 without a web or

honeysuckle summer madness…

I name him Tchaikowsky,
Peter Illich Tchaikowsky (1840–1893)
then I press my hand down and
kill him,
walk to the bedroom thinking,
I will write that son-of-a-bitch
down at the radio station
(knowing all along that I won’t)
and tell him how I feel.
I fall on the bed
my body resting over the
millions and billions of bones
buried in the earth
and all the billions of bones
to follow,
including mine.

Excerpt from Troubles In The Night by Charles Bukowski 

Through his poems Bukowski often expresses a preference for classical music that lifts his spirits. Tchaikovsky’s best work was a mood killer that gave him heavy thoughts about dead people and ex-girlfriends. The story behind the 6th apparently is strongly related to Bukowski's mixed emotions.

Nine days after the 6th premiered in St. Petersburg, Tchaikovsky was dead. “Cholera” said the authorities, who stated Tchaikovsky must have drank unboiled water. “Suicide” said the musicians, who stated the sheet music of the 6th was to be considered a sad letter in which Tchaikovsky kissed the world goodbye.

Both theories regarding his death lack undismissable proof, but at its first posthumous performance the original title Pateticheskaya (passionate) was changed to Pathetique (pitiful). Like Mahler’s 9th, it ends with a beautiful lamenting finale that could very well depict a race towards the unavoidable.

Recommended recording:
Evgeny Mravinsky & Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra

Gergiev’s version with the Vienna PO is stunningly beautiful. But when it comes to Tchaikovsky, Russian powerhouse Mravinsky rules with an iron fist.



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