Since Thucydides, the composition of historiography has entailed two primary facets: evidence and entertainment.
The best histories are those which combine meticulous documentation of facts with engaging lyricism of prose--(otherwise you have a chronicle and not an history): the classic historians from Ranke and Mommsen to Chateaubriand and Michelet, to Macaulay and Carlyle, have all exercised this dual principle.
Withal, it is especially sad to see an historian who does the hard work of research, documentation and citation, but is simply not gifted with the ability to write in an engaging and entertaining manner: this is the case with R.J. Wiley in his tome on Pyotr Il'ich Chaykovskiy.
The mechanics of the book are faultless: Wiley's bibliography runs to 418 sources, and he uses a modified APA citation methodology which eliminates the necessity of tedious footnotes of the old CM style--(although some scholars prefer the Chicago Manual style's precision).
But Wiley's major fault as an historian is his regrettable inability to vivify the historical personages he treats in his book: they all appear desiccated and two-dimensional.
Indeed, the whole atmosphere of Wiley's book is airless and suffocating: even as a musicologist Wiley doesn't seem to have much enthusiasm for Tchaikovsky's music--at least he doesn't write very enthusiastically about it.
As mentioned, Wiley's facts are admirable: we get that Tchaikovsky had a `feminine soul' and was doubtless (since childhood) a practicing invert throughout his life; we get the likelihood he had syphilis; we get he married Antonina Milyukova for her money and as a `beard' for his career; and we get that his rather sudden death was unexpected.
Wiley mentions most of Tchaikovsky's works, but in a very tepid (nearly frigid) manner.
Lastly however, like a chancre under clean linen, there is a lovely surprise under the dust jacket: the book boards are done in an attractive dual green motif, reminding us of green carnations and `that curious love of green, which in individuals is always the sign of a subtle artistic temperament, and a laxity, if not a decadence of morals'.
Four stars for lack of a better alternative.
Tchaikovsky: The Symphonies
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (complete ballet); Wolfgang Sawallisch; Philadelphia Orchestra
Pytor Illych Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Complete Ballet
Tchaikovsky - Eugen Onegin / T. Allen, Freni, von Otter, Shicoff, Burchuladze; Levine
Tchaikovsky - Eugene Onegin / Hvorostovsky · Focile · Shicoff · Borodina · Arkhipova · Orchestre de Paris · Bychkov
Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame [The Queen of Spades]
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2; Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1
Peter Tchaikovsky/Alexander Glazunov: Violin Concertos