The Shorthand Of Emotion

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Katie Derham considers the relationship between Leo Tolstoy and the Russian composers of his day.

"Music, like every other art, but especially music, makes us desire that everyone, as many people as possible, take part in our experience of pleasure", wrote Count Leo Tolstoy in his diary in October 1910.

Several weeks later, during an icy November, Tolstoy - one of the world's greatest artists and moral activists - fled his family estate in Yasnaya Polyana having finally decided to leave his wife.

He died on his journey.

One of the most renowned of his later works was a novella called The Kreutzer Sonata which told the tale of the infatuation of an older married woman for a young violinist.

This programme explores how music remained a source of continued recreation and delight and was an emotional stimulus for Tolstoy for much of his life.

Tolstoy loved Russian folk music and the rousing music of the gypsies.

At university, he was inspired by friends who had a passion for music to play the piano and he wrote a waltz.

He even thought he might become a composer.

Later on, eminent musicians visited the Tolstoy homes in the country and in Moscow - and some performed there.

They included the great pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein, Sergei Rachmaninov, the harpsichordist and pianist Wanda Landowska, and, most famously, Tchaikovsky.

Tchaikovsky wrote of meeting Tolstoy: "I was frightened and self-conscious when I found myself face to face with him...

but his manner was very straightforward and open...

with me he only wanted to talk music."

Producer: Diana Bentley

Exec Producer: David Prest

A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 3.

Katie Derham on the relationship between Tolstoy and the Russian composers of his day.