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The Music Lovers (1971)

Piano teacher Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky struggles against his homosexuality by marrying, but unfortunately he chooses a nymphomaniac whom he cannot satisfy.


Ken Russell


Melvyn Bragg (screenplay), Catherine Drinker Bowen (book) | 1 more credit »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Chamberlain ... Tchaikovsky
Glenda Jackson ... Nina (Antonina Milyukova)
Max Adrian ... Nicholas Rubinstein
Christopher Gable Christopher Gable ... Count Anton Chiluvsky
Kenneth Colley ... Modeste Tchaikovsky
Izabella Telezynska Izabella Telezynska ... Madame Nadedja von Meck
Maureen Pryor Maureen Pryor ... Nina's Mother
Sabina Maydelle Sabina Maydelle ... Sasha Tchaikovsky
Andrew Faulds ... Davidov
Bruce Robinson ... Alexei Sofronov
Ben Aris Ben Aris ... Young Lieutenant
Xavier Russell Xavier Russell ... Koyola
Dennis Myers Dennis Myers ... Von Meck, twin
John Myers John Myers ... Von Meck, twin
Joanne Brown Joanne Brown ... Olga Bredska


The compelling and bizarre story of Tchaikovsky's life and music. In Ken Russell's own words: "It's the story of the marriage between a homosexual and a nymphomaniac." Written by Jon Dakss <dakss@columbia.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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English | French

Release Date:

17 February 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Lonely Heart See more »


Box Office


GBP1,600,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Russ-Arts, Russ Films See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The extras playing (miming) the orchestra in the scene featuring Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky playing the 1st Piano Concerto were mostly from the Bristol University Music Department Orchestra. They were paid 7 guineas a day (£7 and 7 shillings) each - the extras in the audience were only on 5 guineas. The scene was filmed in the Music Room of Bath Spa. See more »


Peter Tchaikovsky: There's nothing left in me!
Antonina Milyukova: How cruel. How can you say that? Don't I live? Everyone thinks they can do as they like with me! Even you!
See more »


Referenced in Moulin Rouge! (2001) See more »


Written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conducted by André Previn with London Symphony Orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

Peculiar and oddball Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky biography in Ken Russell style
2 November 2015 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Weird , bizarre story of Tchaikovsky's life . Based partially on facts , as Tchaikovsky lived as a bachelor for most of his life . As piano teacher Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain) is an emotionally insecure man who struggles against his homosexuality . In 1868 he met Belgian soprano Désirée Artôt . They became infatuated with each other and were engaged to be married but due to Artôt's refusal to give up the stage or settle in Russia , the relationship ended . Tchaikovsky later claimed she was the only woman he ever loved . In 1877, at the age of 37 , he wed a former but depressed student , Antonina Miliukova (Glenda Jackson) . The marriage was a disaster . Mismatched psychologically and sexually , the couple lived together for only two and a half months before Tchaikovsky left , overwrought emotionally and suffering from an acute writer's block . Tchaikovsky's marital debacle may have forced him to face the full truth about his sexuality and he never blamed Antonina for the failure of their marriage . Tchaikovsky's family remained supportive of him during this crisis and throughout his life . He was also aided by Nadezhda Von Meck (Izabella Telezynska) , the widow of a railway magnate who had begun contact with him not long before the marriage . As The support of a wealthy widow as a patron gives him the artistic support he needs . As well as an important friend and emotional support , she also became his patroness for the next 13 years , which allowed him to focus exclusively on composition . Tchaikovsky remained abroad for a year after the disintegration of his marriage. During this time, he completed Eugene Onegin , orchestrated his Fourth Symphony and composed the Violin Concerto . The formal Western-oriented teaching he received there set him apart from composers of the contemporary nationalist movement embodied by the Russian composers of The Five (it refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, in the years 1856–1870 : Mily Balakirev , César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin), with whom his professional relationship was mixed . He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally, bolstered by his appearances as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States . Tchaikovsky was honored in 1884 by Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension .

This is an intense and thoughtful tale about a thunderous relationship proceeded in a Russel's style . As the film displays his trademarks , extreme angle cameras , excessive facial close-ups, utilization of numerous camera shots with primary colors and overblown visuals . Dealing with the tortuous struggles to have his music accepted as well as Pyotr attempts to suppress his homosexuality , experiencing serious psychological damage . In Ken Russell's own words: ¨It's the story of the marriage between a homosexual and a nymphomaniac that proved to be disastrous¨ . It's a convincing picture though relies heavily on the stormy relationship between Tchaikovsky/Richard Chamberlain and Nina/Glenda Jackson . Magnificent acting with exaggerated but convincing performances . Russell offered Alan Bates the lead role of Tchaikovsky during the filming of Women in love (1969) ; although Bates admired the script he turned the role down . Excellent main cast and secondary actors , such as Kenneth Colley , Bruce Robinson and Max Adrian as Nicholas Rubinstein , among others .

Glamorous cinematography with exceptional attention to detail and captivating images by Douglas Slocombe . Spectacular musical score by Andre Previn conducting famous parts as Romeo and Juliet , overture 1812 , miniature march , dance of the clowns , Scherzo burlesque , Manfred Symphony , 6th Symphony , String Quartet No. 3 , Polovtsian Dances from "Prince Igor" by Borodin . The motion picture was well directed with flamboyance style by Ken Rusell . He's an expert director , whose greatest success was in the 70s with an offbeat musical biographies , such as 'Mahler , Lizstomania , Music lovers' , besides he directed another hits , as ¨Women in love¨ , ¨Valentino¨ and ¨The Devils¨. This outlandish biographic chronicle will appeal to Ken Russell fans.

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