Emma Genton

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Emma Genton

French children's educator, known in Russia as Emma Ivanovna Zhenton (Эмма Ивановна Жентон).

Emma was the governess to the children of Nikolay Kondratyev and his wife Mariya on their estate at Nizy, where the composer often visited.

From her numerous letters to Tchaikovsky (of which nearly 200 have survived), it is clear that she was attracted to him, and in 1884 she appears to have made a direct confession of her love [1]. The composer's letter of reply to this has not survived, and although he attempted to remain on friendly terms with her, his letters and diaries show that he never felt entirely comfortable in her presence.

In 1892, after leaving the Kondratyevs' employment, Emma accepted a position several hundred miles east of Moscow. "Emma has made things awkward", Tchaikovsky complained. "She has accepted a position in Simbirsk, and she is going there in early September, and she's begging me in tears to see me to say goodbye. Her letter was awfully moving, and I want to comply with her request" [2].

However, in 1893, Emma was engaged by the composer's brother Anatoly and his wife Praskovya as the tutor to their daughter Tatyana. It is clear from the composer's letter at the time that he was not the only Tchaikovsky brother to have been the object of her affections. "I forgot to answer you in regards to what you wrote about Modest", the composer replied to Anatoly. "You took too much to heart his rejection of your offer to stay with you in summer. In fact, he is afraid of Emma and I understand that fear very well, as I too feel somewhat awkward because of her presence at yours. When she is completely settled and, God willing, starts adoring you (judging by her last letter, it seems that this is how it will be), then this burdensome feeling towards her will disappear" [3].


In 1882, Tchaikovsky dedicated his piano piece Valse sentimentale — No. 6 of the Six Pieces, Op. 51 — "à Mademoiselle Emma Genton".


None of Tchaikovsky's letters to Emma Genton are known. However, 188 letters from Emma Genton to the composer, dating from 1882 to 1893, are preserved in the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin (a4, Nos. 932–944 and 1035–1209).

Notes and References

  1. See the composer's Diary entry for 23 April/5 May 1884.
  2. Letter 4752 to Vladimir Davydov, 12/24 August 1892.
  3. Letter 4955 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 6/18 June 1893.