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Tchaikovsky was not good at form. But really, he was a first-rate composer. I think some composers were jealous of Tchaikovsky's ability to captivate the public with his beautiful melodies, while their works were much less popular. Also, some classical music lovers are snooty and disdain what the average "Classic FM" types like.

If you haven't listened to Tchaikovsky's other symphonies and ballets, you're missing out.

Disclosure: I rarely listen to Tchaikovsky nowadays, but he is essential for those new to classical.
What does this mean? Do you have examples from major works?
 

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Tchaikovsky was primarily a composer for the stage — opera and ballet. I think he wrote eleven operas(?) Somehow that rarely figures into peoples judgments. I think he was a first rate composer.
 

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Interestingly, some of his contemporary Russian critics found his music too westernized (which again hurt him deeply, I think).
Which is odd because he uses at least as much Russian folk music in his work as any of the nationalists.
 

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Tchaikovsky's music is westernized not because of his eschewing folk tunes, but because he realized that the German symphonic model gave him a framework to compose in. The sonata-allegro design of the Leipzig composers was an anathema to the Nationalists. He also stuck with what was essentially a Brahmsian orchestra rather than rely on on the special effects, at least in his symphonic music. He also embraced the German school's chamber music models: quartets, trios, sonatas that the Nationalists avoided. Some of the Nationalists eventually figured out that they were headed into a musical cul-de-sac and adopted his point of view. Some ways back here someone was complaining that the finale of his Second Symphony was bombastic, repetitive, and not very good: but he was doing exactly was Balakirev wanted, inherited from Glinka's Kamarinskaya: to heck with German development - use changing color and repetition to make the music and that's what happened. For better or worse. Near the end of his life Rimsky-Korsakov said that looking back over the last 30 years, since the Mighty Five started, that is was all in vain. There were no followers and their school of composition was at a dead end. Tchaikovsky had the right idea all along.
Good post. I'd just add that there were other tensions under the surface of the Nationalist-cosmopolitan dispute: Petersburg vs. Moscow (where Tchaikovsky ended up) and amateur vs. conservatory trained (where R-K ended up;))
 

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The holy pantheon of novelists is not as well-settled as that of composers because music is more accessible across language divides, less expensive, and because more people (wrongly, IMO) trust themselves to evaluate a novel than trust themselves to evaluate music. This leads to people in different languages reading and advocating different authors, but listening to and advocating the same composers.

I'd specified novelists because literary figures is far too broad, but even in the narrower field Luo Guanzhong, Murasaki Shikibu, Charlotte Bronte, Austen, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Woolf, Garcia Marquez, Hemingway, and Dostoyevsky all have pretty good arguments for being ranked above Dickens.
You forgot Victor Hugo, who had five excellent novels. I would also add Falukner, William Gaddis, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Cormac McCarthy.
 

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Dostoyevsky I'm ambivalent about. At times he seems more a failed, shallow philosopher than a novelist, and even when he is focusing on narrative and characters I often can't shake the feeling his characters and events are mere mouthpieces for whatever themes he wants to talk about. Tolstoy shares some of Dosto's overt philosophizing, but Tolstoy has sense enough to keep it completely separate from the novel itself and not let it overtly infect his narrative (it's always in the background, but it's much more subtle). Dosto could write superbly when he wanted to as with much of The Brothers Karamazov, but I generally find him overrated, particularly by youngsters who are ready for literature with an overt philosophical edge.
You got that exactly backwards. Tolstoy pushes his private philosophy all the time in a tiresome way. He was the failed philosopher. If one has read Dostoyevsky's five major novels it's clear that the thoughts and words of the characters usually have nothing to do with the author's beliefs. Do you think he really thought murdering rich people was justifiable? (Crime and Punishment) Or that he was a destructive nihilist? (Demons) The indeterminacy of characterization is what D is famous for.
 

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I don't agree with this. Dostoevsky's characters are philosophical archetypes, vehicles to express particular views or psychological states he wanted to explore. Tolstoy's characters are not such representations of ideas, but actual rounded human beings.

If you come away from reading The Idiot thinking "wow, what a tiresome, failed philosopher", with all of its multi-page mouthpiece rants from characters about how the Roman Catholic Church is evil or whatever, I can understand that. If you think the same after reading Anna Karenina, I don't really know what to say.
You too have it backwards. That's exactly what I come away with from Anna Karenina, and also what his acolytes came away with. Constantine Levin is a tiresome cardboard cutout for Tolstoy's ideal agrarian aristocrat. Have you not heard of the Tolstoyan movement? Dostoyevsky doesn't have a comparable movement because, unlike Tolstoy, he wasn't an ideologue. And since you've brought up AK and The Idiot, compare Kitty Shcherbatsky with Natasha Filipovna and tell me which is a lifelike portrait. Do the same for Rogozhin and Vronsky. Who is more vivid? Dostoyevsky created characters obsessed with ideas but usually not his own ideas. Dostoyevsky's novels are renowned for the independence of his characters' voices and the indeterminacy of their motivations from an authorial perspective. I refer you to critics Philip Rhav, Leonid Grossman, and especially Mikhail Bakhtin on these points.

As for religious rants: You are aware that anti-papist, anti-RCC sentiments were widely held in Russia when Dostoyevsky was writing and it makes perfect sense that some of his characters took up these ideas, right? Ivan Karamazov's brilliant poetic essay, "The Grand Inquisitor," is a prime example. Even in that case it's not certain how invested Ivan really is in these ideas, let alone Dostoyevsky. The ideas are just aspects of characterization, not ideas the author is pushing.
 

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Yes, that's the point, and he's as likely to spend as much time on the ideas as anything else. It's tiring, and frequently reads more like philosophy than fiction. There's more to character (not to mention narrative) than what ideas they're obsessed with.
He doesn't spend time on the ideas, the characters do. There's a difference. Some people don't like characters obsessed with ideas. Yes, they can be annoying and dangerous, like Stavrogin and Verkhovensky in Devils. But all of them have much more to their character than the ideas they espouse or struggle with.

About War and Peace — I agree it isn't ideologically overbearing in the way I claim AK to be (unless one takes Tolstoy's historiography re Borodino, Kutuzov, and Napoleon too seriously). Perhaps historical novels are less prone to that?
 
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