The words "sexual identity" and "gender" are often assumed to have the same meaning, and are sometimes used interchangeably by various writers, however by definition there is an important difference between them. "Sexual identity" refers to the biological aspects of the body whereas "gender" refers to physical aspects of choice, for example clothing or behaviour. In this essay I would like to examine what effect these two issues had on two pieces of music by Tchaikovsky.
Nearly every major composer has a year in which personal crises affects the future development of his music, and for Tchaikovsky, the year of turmoil was 1877. Though he had still not composed his greatest masterpieces, he had already written, amongst other works, three symphonies, several operas, and the ballet Swan Lake. He was also benefiting from the recent financial support of Madame Nadezhda von Meck, which allowed him to concentrate more fully upon composition. Although all of those aspects were positive influences upon Tchaikovsky's life; the crisis lay in a sudden and very ill-considered marriage. One of his former students had become deeply in love with him, and swore that if he did not marry her, she would take her life. Concerned for the girl's well-being, Tchaikovsky agreed to the marriage, even though taking a woman into his home was the last thing his own sexual inclinations would have led him to do. They married in the summer and his nervous breakdown came in the autumn at which point his doctors recommended that he never see the young woman again. .
As so often happened, Tchaikovsky sought consolation in composition, returning to some works which he had started and left uncompleted, including his sketches for the opera Yevgeny Onegin, and he also began the orchestration of his fourth symphony. Later in the year, he was able to give an optimistic report to Madame von Meck, writing, "Never yet has any of my orchestral works cost me so much labour, but I've never yet felt such love for any of my things .