Anna Merkling

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Anna Merkling (1830-1911)
Seated alongside Tchaikovsky in 1860

Cousin of the composer (b. 1830; d. 1911), born Anna Petrovna Tchaikovskaya (Анна Петровна Чайковская); known during her first marriage as Anna Petrovna Yegorova (Анна Петровна Егорова), and after her second marriage as Anna Petrovna Merkling (Анна Петровна Мерклинг).

Anna was the oldest child of the composer's uncle Pyotr Petrovich Tchaikovsky (1789–1871) and his wife Yevdokia (b. Berens). She married a Mr Yegorov when she was quite young, but they were not happy together, and after the death of an infant daughter, they separated. Soon afterwards Anna married for the second time to a Guards' officer, Pyotr Ivanovich Merkling, by whom she had a daughter, Lyubov. However, she was not happy in this marriage either. Her new husband made no progress whatsoever in his military career, and he treated Anna badly. Because of his disagreeable character he was forced to leave his regiment, and on some whim he decided to join the police, accepting a lowly position. But even there he did not get on with his superiors, and he soon left the police as well. He eventually ended up working as a caretaker in a school in Saint Petersburg. Anna, who came from a highly cultured family, suffered greatly as she saw herself and her husband come down in the world, but she nevertheless retained a cheerful outlook on life and liked to take part in amateur theatricals and attend concerts [1].

Although Anna was ten years older than Tchaikovsky, they were inseparable companions from 1852 onwards, when Tchaikovsky's parents moved to Saint Petersburg, and, especially after the death of his mother in 1854. They were united by a love of mischief and often devised practical jokes together. Anna would remain Tchaikovsky's favourite cousin all his life, since he valued her ability to rise above adversity thanks to her cheerful character. When her husband suffered financial problems Tchaikovsky lent them a hand [2].

In her memoirs of the composer Aleksandra Panayeva-Kartsova reported the following conversation which took place between Tchaikovsky and his beloved cousin shortly after the concert in Saint Petersburg on 16/28 October 1893 at which he had conducted the première of his Sixth Symphony:

After the concert he saw home his cousin Anna Petrovna Merkling, with whom he had been on very friendly terms ever since his childhood. She was one of the first to appreciate him; she worshipped his talent, and he would constantly share with her his impressions, thoughts, and plans. On this occasion he asked her if she had understood what his new symphony expressed. She replied that the impression she had was that in it he had described his own life.
— Yes, you've guessed right! — he exclaimed joyfully and started to explain it to her — The first movement is childhood and vague strivings after music. The second is youth and merry high society life. The third is the struggle for existence and the achievement of glory. And as for the last movement, — he added cheerfully, — that is the De profundis, with which we all end, but for me that is still a long way ahead; I feel so much energy in me, so many creative impulses; I know that I shall yet create a lot of good things, and even better than those I have created so far" [3].

Tchaikovsky's Works Dedicated to Anna Merkling

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

79 letters from the composer to Anna Merkling have survived, dating from 1871 to 1893, of which those highlighted in bold are available in English translations on this website:

145 letters from Anna Merkling to the composer are preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive.

Notes and References

  1. See the introduction to П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 205.
  2. See the information provided by David Brown in: Tchaikovsky remembered (1993), p.13-14, where the recollections of Anna Merkling are quoted as reported by Modest Tchaikovsky in: Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p.71–72.
  3. This conversation between Tchaikovsky and Anna Merkling on the evening of 16/28 October 1893 is reported by Aleksandra Panayeva-Kartsova in her memoirs, included in: Воспоминания о П. И. Чайковском (1980), p. 136. Here is Tchaikovsky's declaration in the original Russian: " — Да, ты угадала, — обрадовался он и начал ей объяснять её [симфонию]. Первая часть — детство и смутные стремления к музыке. Вторая — молодость и светская весёлая жизнь. Третья — жизненная борьба и достижение славы. — Ну а последняя, — добавил он весело, — это «De profundis», чем все кончаем, но для меня это ещё далеко, я чувствую в себе столько энергии, столько творческих сил; я знаю, что теперь создам ещё много, много хорошего и лучшего, чем до сих пор".