Tchaikovsky dedicated his original and emotionally vibrant Fourth Symphony to his newly found correspondent Nadezhda von Meck in this way: `To my best friend'. This correspondence started at the end of 1876, when Tchaikovsky was in need of funds. On the recommendation of Nikolai Rubinstein, Director of the Moscow Conservatoire where Tchaikovsky was a professor, Nadezhda von Meck generously commissioned Tchaikovsky to arrange some of his smaller pieces for violin and piano. In this way started their extraordinary pen-relationship in which each seemed to bare the soul before the other, Nadezhda von Meck sincerely and increasingly gushingly, Tchaikovsky less sincerely to begin with, but much more so before the elapse of many months. Each was determined never to meet the other in the flesh for fear of destroying their very special relationship. The years covered by the present book are by far the most important in the correspondence. They cover the period of Tchaikovsky's tempestuously abortive marriage, about which he is surprisingly candid; in addition to the Fourth Symphony, for which he gives a detailed programme in a very revealing letter to her, the compositions of the period include his finest and most sensitive opera, Eugene Onegin, and the ever-popular Violin Concerto, as well as numerous other smaller works. Their views on many musical, literary, philosophical, and other matters are stated frankly and, though they are often in accord, they are not afraid to agree to differ either. For Tchaikovsky, his correspondence with Nadezhda von Meck was therapeutic; he often wrote to her when he was depressed - sometimes in despair - and the very act of putting pen to paper in the knowledge that she would be supportive was enough to alleviate his condition, not to mention the fact that she eventually granted him a monthly allowance which gave him artistic `freedom', as he wrote joyously when he had resigned from the Conservatoire. Not only giving a unique insight into Tchaikovsky the composer, these letters are perhaps as fascinating as any ever printed. Many are published in English for the first time. The translations, by a native-born Russian who lived the latter part of her life in England, and edited by a music scholar who reads Russian and a Slavist who is qualified in music, are as close to the letter and spirit of the original as it is possible to get. The correspondence will be of interest both to musicians and music lovers, and to all who are interested in the arts and culture of the nineteenth century.