When Piotr Ilich Ciajkovskij, Russian composer and musician (Votkins, 1840 - St. Petersburg, 1893), sojourned in Florence, the city offered him important moments of reflection throughout his short but brilliant career. He is often considered one of the most innovative musicians of the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1882, he sojourned in the rooms of Villa Bonciani in Via San Leonardo, where he wrote a series of letters to his rich Russian patron, the heiress Filaretvna Nadezda who was sumptuously housed at the Villa Oppenheim. Ciajkovskij’s enjoyment of the city, its architecture and musical traditions were interrupted by his departure for Paris.
Ciajkovskij returned to Florence in 1882 for a fleeting visit. During a longer stay in 1890, this international musician returned to a secluded corner of the city in order to compose. In the Washington Hotel on Lungarno he began working on his opera ‘Queen of Spades’ inspired by Puskin’s bleak story. The booklet was created by Modest Ciajkovskij, the composer’s brother. Florence continued to be a source of inspiration for the musician throughout his life. He wrote ‘Souvenir de Florence’ for a string sextet. Leonardo Previero, musicologist and musician, describes it as ‘a charming piece that speaks of lights and shadows—something created for a time already lost.’