Tchaikovsky, Open World

Tchaikovsky Research
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Tchaikovsky, Open World (Чайковский, открытый мир) is a public online database containing digital reproductions of materials that were either wholly or partially handwritten by the composer himself. These include autographs of musical and literary works, all manner of preliminary sketches and drafts, diaries and notebooks, letters, jottings, corrections, annotations on the manuscripts of compositions by others, proof sheets and publications, commemorative and presentational inscriptions, signatures on official papers and attendance lists.

The project launched in 2015 as part of the 175th anniversary celebrations of Tchaikovsky's birth, and is the joint responsibility of the Russian Ministry of Culture and the Glinka National Museum Consortium of Musical Culture in Moscow, the world's largest repository of Tchaikovsky's compositional autographs [1]. This was the first project of this nature to have been undertaken in Russia [2].

Tchaikovsky's Manuscript Legacy

In a broad sense, Tchaikovsky's manuscript heritage includes all of the documents written by the composer both in their entirety and in part. The total number of documents comprising Tchaikovsky's manuscript heritage has yet to be determined precisely, but it is safe to say that it will run to thousands of items. Today, this vast collection of materials is scattered across archives, museums, libraries and private collections all around the globe. In total, over 80 storage locations house Tchaikovsky's documentary heritage, with the most important archives located in Russia. Negotiations are being conducted with these organisations regarding their participation in the project.

In Tchaikovsky's case, primary sources and issues of authorship are especially acute, since many of his musical compositions are best known in versions that appeared after the composer's death and that significantly distort the authentic text. But even where these versions are accurate, they cannot fully convey the original manuscript, the features of its design or details of its history. These data are vital for a better understanding of the composer's intentions, and to inform contemporary performing practice.

In addition to providing access to Tchaikovsky's manuscripts in digital format, the database will also provide information about the ways in which these documents shed light on Tchaikovsky's life and work, as well as on the cultural life of the period.

Structure of the Database

The digital database ‘Tchaikovsky, Open World' will contribute to a series of web projects focused on the legacies of such European composers as Ludwig van Beethoven [3], Johann Sebastian Bach [4], Franz Schubert [5], Johannes Brahms [6] and Edvard Grieg [7].

The main subject headings reflect the types of documents that constitute Tchaikovsky's legacy of manuscripts:

  • Sketches
  • Drafts
  • Autographs of musical compositions
  • Autographs of literary works
  • Authorised materials (manuscripts by others, proof sheets, printed publications of Tchaikovsky's compositions with his corrections)
  • Diaries and notebooks
  • Letters
  • Official documents
  • Holdings from the composer's personal library
  • Commemorative and presentational inscriptions
  • Miscellanea

Scans of composition autographs are available on a particular composition page. In addition to a hyperlink, each page provides a description of the document in question. The following information is provided about the autographs of musical compositions:

  • The catalogue number assigned to the work in the Thematic and Bibliographical Catalogue of P. I. Čajkovskij's Works (2006) (ČW)
  • Opus number
  • Author of the original musical content (for other composers' versions, arrangements, instrumentations)
  • Standard title of work according to the Thematic and Bibliographical Catalogue of P. I. Čajkovskij's Works
  • Title of work according to the source
  • Authors of the literary original (for operas, ballets, programme compositions)
  • Authors of librettos/lyrics (for operas, vocal chamber compositions, choral-orchestral compositions, choral compositions)
  • Manner in which musical material is presented
  • Number of movements, movement titles and/or tempo markings (for sets and compilations)
  • Dedicatee(s)
  • Place of origin of the document
  • Document date (
  • Number of folios
  • Foliation and pagination data
  • Paper type
  • Writing materials
  • Storage place
  • Shelf code
  • Receipt date (
  • Source of origin
  • Previous storage places
  • Links with other sources
  • Bibliography

The first block of fields contains the basic factual data about a given piece of music that are written in the manuscript, and the form in which these are presented. The second section focuses on the autograph as a physical object. The third provides information concerning the document's history, preservation and study, and traces its relationship with other sources.

At the end of each description, a historical abstract or an analytical annotation is sometimes provided. It is possible for researchers working on the project to add comments or make amendments to the data in any fields of the system in order to improve their accuracy, should this prove necessary.


As of February 2018, some 530 digitised autographs of Tchaikovsky's manuscripts from the Museum Consortium's archival holdings and other Russian archives (approximately 16,700 digital images in total), are available through the Russian Cultural Heritage web portal:

The site is currently available only in Russian, but technical enhancements and translations of descriptions in English are expected in the near future.

Notes and References

  1. Approved by a governmental decree of the Russian Federation (No. 1291 of 22 July 2013), and subsequently amended to include plans for an electronic database of the composer's legacy of manuscripts. See:
  2. We are most grateful to Mr Alexander Komarov for permission to use extracts from his article 'Tchaikovsky's Legacy to the World', Museum International, vol. 65 (2013), issue 1-4, pp. 144
  3. Beethoven-Haus, Bonn, Digital archives —
  4. Bach Digital, Digital Libraries, Leipzig, 2008 —
  5. Schubert Autographs, Vienna
  6. Brahms-Institut, Digitales Archiv, Lübeck, 2013 —
  7. Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek, Grieg– og spesialarkiv —