April 2011
Behind the photograph

Dimitri Tiomkin with His Excellency the High Commissioner for Kenya, Mr. Ng-Ethe Njoroge and Mrs. Njoroge at the London premiere of Tchaikovsky.

Tiomkin scheduled a midnight unveiling of Tchaikovsky at the Odeon Marble Arch cinema in London’s West End in late 1971. At the time the theater housed the largest screen in London. At more than 75 feet in width the theater specialized in screening 70mm films. (The theater has since been converted into a multiplex.) Among the attendees at the London premiere were Tiomkin, Mr. and Mrs. Njoroge, and Madame Galina von Meck, the eighty-two-year-old granddaughter of Tchaikovsky’s patroness.

Tiomkin returned to his native Russia to film this historical biography for which he arranged the music and served as executive producer. Filming on Tchaikovsky began in Moscow in the summer of 1968 and the premier took place in the USSR in the spring of 1970. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in the foreign language film category.

Earlier in his career, Tiomkin adapted the music of Johann Strauss for the biographical musical The Great Waltz (1938). Tiomkin’s biographer, Christopher Palmer, who provided orchestrations for Tchaikovsky felt that Tiomkin regarded the film as a gesture of homage to a spiritual predecessor whose music had been a constant source of inspiration to all Russian composers.

(First in an occasional series featuring rare or unusual photographs.)

Sources

  • Marble Arch (Wikipedia entry)
  • Campbell, Mary. “Composer Dimitri Tiomkin Receives 25th Oscar Nomination for Tchaikovsky,” Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio, March 23, 1972.
  • Palmer, Christoper. Dimitri Tiomkin: A Portrait. London: T.E. Books, 1984.
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