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How did Tchaikovsky die?

Editorial Staff

People love a mystery. We love examining the possible causes, figuring out our own version of what really happened and then comparing that to the truth. But what happens when there is no verifiable truth?

In the case of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 124 years have gone by since his death, and still today there are as many theories attempting to explain it: He unknowingly contracted cholera from a glass of unboiled water; he drank the water on purpose, hoping it would kill him; he was forced to poison himself by a panel of influential jurists; the Czar ordered Tchaikovsky killed for the crime of a homosexual relationship with his own nephew.

As salacious and tempting as any of those theories may be, none has been proven, and it is very likely we will never know the truth. The only certainty is that Tchaikovsky's last musical breath, like the questions around his tragic end, will continue to haunt his memory and our imaginations.

The latest instalment of Classical (De)composition, a video series written by CBC Radio 2's Tom Allen, takes us to the graveside of one of music's most enduring mysteries. Illustrations by Monika Melnychuk, i2i Art Inc. Watch it below.

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