How Russian Philanthropists Built Moscow 07.08.2022Business and philanthropy walked in parallel in pre-revolutionary Russia. Big entrepreneurs were often also big philanthropists. They built hospitals, theaters, orphanages, and almshouses. Today the Museum of Entrepreneurs, Patrons, and Philanthropists in Moscow supports and promotes their legacy. Nadezhda Smirnova, museum director, told the Russkiy Mir about the high standard set by the philanthropists of pre-revolutionary Russia.
Tchaikovsky's descendant wants to unite the composer’s fans around the globe/ Ãëàâíàÿ / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / Tchaikovsky's descendant wants to unite the composer’s fans around the globe
Tchaikovsky's descendant wants to unite the composer’s fans around the globe
Recently, The Spiritual Path of Tchaikovsky by Galina Sizko was presented to the public in the library of the Russian Center of the Tchaikovsky House in Hamburg. The book was contributed and published by Denis von Meck, a descendant of the families of Tchaikovsky and von Meck, the founder of the NF von Meck Charity Foundation and a collector. The Russkiy Mir asked Denis to share about activities of the foundation established by him, and about his collection.
– Denis, what is your relationship to Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck?
– I am her great-great-great-grandson on my father's side of the family. I would like to expand the answer a little, with your permission. I’m also Tchaikovsky’s great-great-great-grandnephew. His beloved sister, Alexandra Ilyinichna, is my direct great-great-great-grandmother, just as Nadezhda Filaretovna. I don’t know whether it is required to clarify for the reader that the number of “great” does not relate to familial relationship, but to remoteness in time (in generations). So I mention people who lived in the nineteenth century, and both of these surnames have the same familial relationship to me.
Denis von Meck
– Please tell us about activities of your foundation. In which countries do you develop your activity, who do you cooperate with?
– I lead an active social life and research activities in the field of history and culture. There are a lot of projects; and International Charitable Foundation named after Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck (or Von Meck Foundation in short) was established to accumulate their funding. Its main activities are education and charity. We have three directions: following the good traditions of Nadezhda Filaretovna, such as support of young talents; popularization of information about work and life of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; and we study and continue Nadezhda Filaretovna children’s legacy comprising of enormous variety of charity and socially active work they conducted.
Following several months of formalities, our foundation received state registration on the very day of Tchaikovsky’s birthday, which is very symbolic for me. And although we are only at the outset now, we have already been working on contacts in Japan, Argentina, and Germany. As to foreign countries, our main direction is popularization of Tchaikovsky and searching for descendants of the rare émigré branches of the Tchaikovsky - von Meck-Davydov.
N. von Meck and P.I. Tchaikovsky
– Recently, The Spiritual Path of Tchaikovsky by Galina Sizko was published. Please tell us, what the book is about, and what role your foundation played in its publication.
– May 7th is Pyotr Ilyich’s birthday. And on this very day I presented our first publishing project at the Tchaikovsky Museum in Klin. This fascinating book was written by the oldest employee of the museum, who has worked there for 43 years. Galina Stepanovna Sizko is a senior researcher and guidance counselor of the museum, as well as conservatory graduate. Our first publishing project turned out to be very successful. Several events have already been held in museums, libraries, etc. 50% of the copies were sold out in 50 days. In June, I took the book for presentation to the library of the Tchaikovsky House in Hamburg, to Oldenburg for the annual meeting of the International Tchaikovsky Society (Tschaikowsky Gesellschaft) and to the Russian House in Berlin, where I met many new people with a keen interest. Contacts are needed in many countries, as I plan to translate the book into several languages and make it available worldwide.
– Chekhov, who was well acquainted with Tchaikovsky and admired his Eugene Onegin, dedicated the Gloomy People, a collection of short stories, to him. From your point of view, which of Tchaikovsky’s operas are of the most relevance today?
– From story point of view, I like Iolanta. It is the kindest opera about eternal search of relationship with God. I think this topic is always relevant. If I'm not mistaken, such words as God and Lord are used 61 times in the libretto.
– Nadezhda Filaretovna supported Tchaikovsky for many years both as a philanthropist, and as a friend. According to your family, why was this link broken?
– This is a very frequent question. Nowadays there are so many answers, opinions and insinuations, unfortunately, even forgeries are known. I recorded a very detailed video about it, and also published a part of the memoirs of people who had personally and closely known both parties on my historical website. I am also now in the process of reissuing As I Remember Them, a book by Galina Nikolaevna von Meck, which was published under the same title in London in 1973. Our family published it in Russian in 1999. The new edition of this year will be released in the fall with a great variety of new high-quality illustrations, diagrams, documents. There is the answer to your question there.
– We know that Tchaikovsky was a globally minded person - he lived abroad for a long time and probably absorbed local cultural life, but at the same time his music is always recognizably Russian. What do you think is the secret?
– The Spiritual Path of Tchaikovsky has the answer – starting with his children's poems, the memoirs of his French governess, and a lot of his phrases about love of everything Russian. For example, in his correspondence with Nadezhda Filaretovna he wrote from Switzerland: “... I grew up in the depths of the country; from my earliest childhood, I appreciated the inexplicable beauty of intrinsic features of Russian folk music; so I passionately love the Russian feature in all its manifestations; and, basically, I am Russian in the fullest sense of this word ... " (Clarens, March 5-17, 1878).
– You are well known as a collector, for sure your passion has touched the memorabilia associated with Tchaikovsky.
– Yes, of course, and among the coins and medals with the image of Tchaikovsky, I will show a photo of one of them with aò inscription on its reverse side:
“I passionately love a Russian person, Russian language, Russian mentality, beauty of Russian features, Russian customs.”
The collection is large-scale and high-profile one; it includes rare and even the rarest items of pre-revolutionary, Soviet and modern ages. Even the most competent catalogs do not have images of some of them. Few people can assume that there are coins among them, that is, state monetary units of such countries as China, North Korea, Laos, Turkey ... What a glory Peter Ilyich has, doesn’t he?!
– Do you know more or less how many Tchaikovsky fan clubs are there roughly in the world? Do you keep in touch with some of them?
– I have a serious limitation - except Russian, I speak only English. Therefore the search is complicated in many cases. Now founders for a similar society are being selected in Japan. I have already mentioned Germany. As to other countries, I am still enquiring. There are several individuals who are translating correspondence between Nadezhda Filaretovna and Pyotr Ilyich into European languages. But as far as I know, each of them is translating 200-400 letters, but full correspondence consists of more than 1,200 ones. So there are plans to raise funds and translate the full correspondence. There are numerous groups on Facebook pages, there are websites, but I haven’t been able to reach all of them yet. I am looking for the like-minded people in different countries – you are welcome to join!
– Please tell us about the nearest plans related to promotion of Russian culture abroad.
– We are only at the outset now. As I previously mentioned, we have been working in three countries so far, however, our plans include China, the USA, Italy, Korea, France, Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. I am open to any geographic offers and contacts! In the nearest future we plan to discuss and get a dedicated and out-of-competition award named after Nadezhda Filaretovna approved by the organizers of established and existing contests. Eventually, I believe, we will organize our own contest for young performers.
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