21 Prechistenka Street, Moscow
Nikolay Lvovich Bochechkarov (died August 25, 1879) was an eccentric old man whom Tchaikovsky supported financially during his Moscow years. They first met in 1869. Bochechkarov lived in Moscow, at Martynova House (21 Prechistenka, Eropkinsky Lane) in the Fedotov's apartment (courtyard annex). Major General A.A. Tuchkov built the estate complex of three buildings on the corner of Prechistenka and Mansurovsky Lane in 1810. During a fire in 1812 the main house was not injured. Count S.P. Potemkin bought the entire property in 1817. Then, the owners changed several times. The new mistress A.P. Martynova reworked the main house with an extension of the lane, and the facade of the trim in the eclectic style in 1871-1872. The project was done by architect P.S. Campioni. In later years, Tchaikovsky often spoke warmly of Bochechkarov; in writing to Vladimir Shilovsky on May 10, 1879, he says: "Since I took from you a total of 7,550 rubles only, a sum which you arbitrarily increased to 28,000, I consider, not without basis, that 20,450 rubles are still coming to me. However, I shall be more modest in my demands. I need much less. The fact is that now (when I depend only on the sporadic earnings from my morceaux malingres et rachitiques), I am not in a position to be of as great and dependable assistance to Bochechkarov as I was. And so it occurred to me to ask you to give him a life pension of 300 silver rubles a year (i.e., 25 rubles a month). Do please grant this request. Nikolay Lvovich is today a poor, pitiful, and sick old man. And for you the sum is so insignificant! As for my gratitude to you, it will be so great, I promise not to be in the least offended should I hear that you continue to spread the rumours of having given me 28,000 rubles and of the blackness of my soul. Good-bye. I hope you have a pleasant sununer."
Bochechkarov was quite plump, with a mustache a la Regence, with the venerable air of an important outside of business dignitary, residing in retirement in the capital, with the manners of the old style of aristocrats, with their turns of speech, replete with gallicisms as the words adopted from old nannies. "Mavo", "tvavo", "just now", "the other day", "tapericha" now and then mixed with the expressions "do not put your feet" to someone, "do not take tea", or even just with French words, like this was once demanded by the "bonton", and as the ladies still say in the deep provinces. But just like these ladies, he almost had to say something coherently in French, he was confused, because in essence he did not know the language at all.
In the year of Swan Lake (1877), P.I. Tchaikovsky married a mentally unbalanced music student. The marriage was a disaster. ‘Various manipulations’ failed to generate a sex-life. They separated after a few weeks. Tchaikovsky worried that his wife would try to blackmail him. His friend Nikolai Bochechkarov helped him to find relief with servants and male prostitutes. In 1878, Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modest, describing how a friend, Nikolay Bochechkarov, introduced him to a young butler. The three met on the boulevard, went to a pub, and an infatuated Tchaikovsky took the butler to a private room.
Bochechkarov lived as a "rentier", that is, he did absolutely nothing, and this is not only in old age, but, it seems, since he remembered himself. He spent his time like that. The morning was devoted to cleaning up his own person and the entire small apartment, which he occupied with two servants, husband and wife, Vasily and Iraida. All the three times were rubbed, most of all the icons, which occupied a quarter of the entire setting, and these with special care, in atonement for the fact that all the vestments that were once on them, from time immemorial, lay in pledge. Then lamps were lit, and on holidays wax candles before each. Then they moved into the dresser underwear and dress and read the "Police Gazette". It was a whole procedure. - Firstly, it was necessary to cross (he was baptized like important ladies - with a small, small sign on fuzi), and secondly, attach to the image of St. George the Victorious in the Moscow coat of arms, thirdly, when whispering some prayers, attach it several times to the forehead and then cut it out, for fear that the sacred image would accidentally fall into an inappropriate place. Then, having given orders to the servants, he went to visit on weekdays, and on Sundays to church for mass. But standing it all up was boring and tiring; moreover, the especially thorough festive cleaning and lighting candles in front of the robbed icons took a lot of time. So in his entire life Nikolai Lvovich did not come to church before, "Our Father", but he atoned for this sin by kissing absolutely all the images that could be reached with his lips. At the same time, he somehow rubbed his head against them, whispered something to them, dipped his fingers in the lamp oil, wiped himself off with the boards hanging from some of them, etc.,not paying attention to the service. If there were relics, then there was no end to countless evolutions. In which church, when, why, for what, which saint had to pray, - he knew thoroughly; entered the altar as if to himself; he drank warmth and ate prosphora, inspiring respect and fear in the employees both by his respectable appearance and by his decisiveness of action, which did not allow objections.
Tchaikovsky came back to Russia after the long stay abroad caused by the matrimonial fiasco on April 11, 1878.
A letter to Modest Tchaikovsky sheds new light on Tchaikovsky's homosexual tastes and on the role of his longtime friend in Moscow, Nikolai Bochechkarov:
"Moscow 16 September 1878. Only you alone, Modia, can fully understand the emotions
I felt yesterday. Due to boredom and unbearable apathy, I gave in to Nikolai's (Bochechkarov) urgings to meet one sweet youth from the peasant class who works as a lackey. Our rendez-vous was set for Nikitsky boulevard. My heart moaned sweetly all day, since I am at present quite disposed to falling madly in love with someone. We arrived at the boulevard, introduced ourselves, and I fell in love immediately, just as Tatiana fell in love with Onegin. His face and figure were un réve, the embodiment of a sweet dream. After a walk, during which I fell irrevocably in love with
him, I Invited him and Bochechkarov to a tavern. We engaged a private room. He
sat next to me on the sofa, took off his gloves and and how horrible, his
hands were terrible, small, with small nails, slightly bitten all around, and
with a gleam on his fingers next to his nails like Nikolai Rubinstein's! Oh,
what a terrible blow this was to my heart! What torment I expenenced! However
he was so handsome, so dear, charming in all other respects, that with the
help of two glasses of vodka I was in love and melting by the end of the
evening. I experienced fine, sweet moments capable of reconciling me with the
boredom and vulgarity of life. Absolutely nothing happened. Probably I shall
gradually reconcile myself to his hands, but this circumstance will prevent
full happiness from ever coming to be. Generally speaking, I am in an
unprecedentedly strange state of mind and am leading an unprecedented
lifestyle. Not that I am experiencing vague yearning or burning feelings of
dissatisfaction and craving for another life, not at all. But I am mindlessly
bored and view all around me with cold disgust. Moscow is utterly disgusting
to me. I cannot remain here, this I have decided and shall as upon, but for
the moment I am living au jour le jour, hiding myself with great care and
avoiding any society. I feel like a guest at the Conservatory, it has become
something so alien to me, that I am no longer angry in class and feel only raw
disgust towards the male and female students and their works. The respected
professors with their servile devotion to the respected Director and their
squabbles and petty interests, also seem to me foreigners to whom nothing ties
me. Arriving at the Conservatory I go straight to class, and try to leave in
such a way that I meet no one. In answer to various exclamations of greeting,
such as "Ba!" or "Who is that I see?" I make an angry face and immediately
rush aside. Then I regularly walk or ride to Neskuchny Park or Kuntsevo every
day for a stroll. I walk for a couple of hours, and then ride home and dine
usually with Nikolay Lvovich. In the evening we stroll or go to church.
Incidentally, recently I went with him to an All-Night Vigil at the Cathedral
of the Dormition, where everyone called him "Your Excellency" or "Your
Highness". Apart from all this I am perfectly healthy, and all of my bodily
functions are excellent. Rubinstein has stayed for another week in Paris, and
therefore the resolution of my fate has been postponed. I received your letter
and am concerned about the abscess in your armpit. I know from experience how
tortuous that is. I await your arrival here with great satisfaction. I am
suffenng from impecuniousness. A thousand kisses, P. Tchaikovsky."
In 1879 Tchaikovsky received a message from Nikolay Kondratyev: he insistently called him to come to Nizy to visit Nikolai Lvovich Bochechkarov, who was sick with dropsy. He experienced painfully the illness and death of Bochechkarov, and in his letters of that time we find a detailed account, often full of naturalistic details. Already in the middle of June 1879, he learned that Bochechkarov was seriously, possibly terminally ill, and wrote from Kamenka to Modest on the 15: “Nikolai Dmitrievich reports sad news about Nikolai Lvovich. He is so weak that he can hardly move and almost does not get out of his bed. Will the poor old man really die? What a joy it is to have a job like mine that takes every thought. If it were not for this, it seems to me that I would have burst into tears at the thought that a man who even life on a chain in a dog kennel prefers death, must die anyway, and soon. However, I still hope that this is a consequence of smallpox and that he will get better." In this situation, Tchaikovsky made a heroic effort and, despite his panic about death, on July 4, 1879, went to the Kondratyev estate and was present at the agony of Bochechkarov. He stayed in Nizy (Nizakh) until July 18. From there he inquires in detail his sister, famous for her knowledge in the field of medicine, about the means of treating dropsy, and in a letter to Modest the next day upon arrival he could no longer hide the nightmare he encountered: “But after half an hour it was finally necessary to go to Nikolai Lvovich, and since then my stay here has been poisoned with bitterness, regret and fear for the poor patient. You can't look at him without horror. Imagine a tiny, slender old man's head, furrowed with smallpox, with dull, weak eyes, with equally emaciated other members of the body and a huge fat belly. The voice is weak and accompanied by some hoarseness. I was very shocked by this spectacle and I still enter his room every time with excitement, and sitting with him, I take it upon myself so as not to turn away from horror. He has a watery one. I still cannot find out if he can recover and if there is hope. Bochechkarov himself, however, does not lose heart and does not in the least realize the danger of his position. Illness and extreme weakness did not in the least change his usual methods in conversation, his jokes, sudden anger, etc. But all this now comes out not funny, but incredibly pitiful."
In correspondence with Nadezhda von Meck, this picture is depicted in a much more restrained manner. Bochechkarov is not even named, as if Tchaikovsky instinctively suspected that this acquaintance and his own extraordinary concerns might be considered reprehensible by his correspondent. In his last letter to Modest from the Kondratyev estate on July 19, 1879, Tchaikovsky, speaking of the psychological torments he had endured, adds: "It's only good that I saw Nikolai Lvovich, perhaps for the last time," and he was right: Bochechkarov died on August 25, 1879. At this time in Somaky, Ukraine, Pyotr Ilyich was enjoying the hospitality of his "best friend", Nadezhda von Meck. The setting, and especially the nature, softened the blow. He wrote to Anatoly on August 27, 1879: “Even today, despite the sad news about poor Nikolai Lvovich, I feel sad, but deceased. I, of course, wept about the poor old man, but loneliness, the needlessness to restrain and hide my sadness, and most importantly, nature - wonderful, all-reconciling, had the most beneficial effect on me. So as not to tell you sad circumstances about the end of Nikolai Lvovich, I am attaching Kondratyev's letter. "
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