The role of these two young people in the lives of the composers is very interesting and is considered by many to be of significance in their lives and in their music.
Karl van Beethoven was the son of the deceased brother of Beethoven and Vladimar Davydov was the son of Tchaikovsky’s sister Aleksandra. Both composers were musical geniuses, but there was little or no similarity in their lives and personalities. Tchaikovsky was sociable, outgoing, sensitive while Beethoven was a recluse, extremely difficult in interpersonal relationships and had few if any friends. Although Tchaikovsky had a marriage of convenience which was short lived, neither men for all intense and purposed married.
Both of the composers were plagued with depression much of their lives and had a myriad of emotional problems. During the time their nephews lived with them, they were able to produce their greatest works. While Karl was in the care of his uncle, Beethoven wrote the 9th symphony considered by many to be his masterpiece. Tchaikovsky wrote his 6th symphony, Pathétique which came at a time of joy in his life associated with the love he had for his nephew. This was a straight forward relationship. Both loved each other dearly and were constant companions as they traveled the world together. On the other hand, the relationship between Beethoven and his nephew was fraught with frustration, resentment and anger. From a psychological standpoint, this was a complicated relationship, but for some reason, it brought out a profound manifestation of the composers genius. Beethoven was single minded regarding Karl. He wanted complete control of the boy and was constantly over protected him. At one time, Karl became so depressed with the constant control of his uncle that he attempted suicide. He finally escaped by joining the army.
Vladimir, affectionately called “Bob”, was able to reciprocate his uncle’s love.
He stayed with Tchaikovsky through his final illness and gave his uncle strong support at all times during their relationship.
Both young men represented a point of focus in the lives of their uncles. Almost in laser like fashion, both Beethoven and Tchaikovsky were able to direct so much of their attention and energy on the nephews that it enabled them to become so creative that they produced their great works. It was almost as if they had waited all of their life to have such a cause célèbre that everything else in their lives was put aside. Their strong emotional evolvement with the young men (although very different in many ways) was none the less very powerful.
It may well be that if Karl and Bob had not come into the lives of the composers, they might not have been able to write the 9th sympathy or the Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, Pathétique.
The world of today may know little about the personal lives of these two musical greats and that does not matter. We continue to receive great joy in their efforts regardless of the emotional circumstances which may have contributed to their success.