What did Tchaikovsky’s voice sound like? Here’s a rare recording

2 August 2017, 14:55 | Updated: 2 August 2017, 15:01

By Tim Edwards

In the very early days of recording, a businessman called Julius Block was trying to drum up support for a new-fangled device – Thomas Edison’s phonograph. So he gathered a group of his friends, including the great composer Tchaikovsky, and showed them what it could do.

Very few recordings exist from the 19th century partly because the early equipment used to record sound was so delicate.

This short clip was recorded onto a wax cylinder and is now help at the Tchaikovsky Museum in Moscow.

On the recording you can hear Tchaikovsky’s voice, alongside the voices of pianist Anton Rubinstein, Julius Block, pianist and conductor Vasily Safonov and opera singer Yelizaveta.

The conversation’s in Russian, so here’s part of it translated by YouTuber Transforming Art:

Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya: Disgusting. How dare you call me crafty?

Vasily Safonov: [Sings a scale incorrectly]

Pyotr Tchaikovsky: This trill could be better.

Lavrovskaya: [Sings]

Tchaikovsky: Block is good, but Edison is even better.

Lavrovskaya: [Singing] A-o, a-o.

Safonov: Peter Jurgenson in Moscow.

Tchaikovsky: Who just spoke? It seems like Safonov. [Whistles]