Nadezhda von Meck : biography
Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck ( 29 January (10 February) 1831 – 1 January (13 January) 1894) was a Russian businesswoman, who is best known today for her artistic relationship with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. She supported him financially for 13 years, enabling him to devote himself full-time to composition, but she stipulated that they were never to meet. She was the dedicatee of his Symphony No. 4 in F minor. She was also an influential patron of the arts in general, active in providing financial support to Nikolai Rubinstein and Claude Debussy.
She was born Nadezhda Filaretovna Frolovskaya, into a family with large landholdings. From an early age her father, Filaret Frolovsky, embraced a love of music. From her mother, Anastasia Dimitryevna Potemkina, came her own energy, determination and business acumen.
A serious music student in her youth, she became a very capable pianist with a good knowledge of the repertoire. She also became widely familiar with literature and history, a master at foreign languages and appreciated the visual arts. She also read works by philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Russian idealist Vladimir Solovyov.
At 16 she was married off to Karl Otto Georg von Meck, a 28-year-old engineer and son of major Otto Adam von Meck and Wilhelmine Hafferberg – a Baltic German family from Riga. Together they had 13 children, of whom 11 survived to adulthood.
As a government official, Karl von Meck's life was uneventful and his work poorly paid. With several children quickly added to his responsibilities, however, he was reluctant to make a break with a steady post.
Nadezhda von Meck saw things very differently. To her, filling the roles of mother, nurse, governess, dressmaker, housekeeper and valet was far easier for her to bear than the humiliation of seeing her husband as a cog in the machine of a government organization. Neither did fulfilling all those domestic duties lower her resolve or weaken her energy in urging him to make a break. Russia, desperately short of railways, was expanding its communications network rapidly, and Nadezhda was far-sighted enough to see that a future for her husband lay there. She continually exerted pressure on Karl to find a partner with capital and join the boom in Russian railway construction.
Karl finally gave in to his wife's requests and resigned. They had only 20 kopecks a day on which to live. Nadezhda was right, though, to trust his talent as an engineer. In 1860, there were only 100 miles of railroad track laid in Russia. Twenty years later, there were over 15,000 miles. Much of this explosion was due to Karl von Meck, and it made him a multi-millionaire. Lines for which he was responsible included Kursk to Kiev and the highly profitable Moscow to Ryazan line, with its monopoly of grain transport from the Black Earth Region of Central Russia.
Karl died suddenly in 1873. In his will, he gave Nadezhda control over his vast financial holdings. This included two railway networks, large estates and several million rubles. With seven of their 11 children still at home, she concentrated on her business affairs and on the education of those children still dependent on her. She sold one railway and ran the other one with the aid of her brother and her eldest son, Vladimir.
Nikolai Rubinstein. After the death of her husband, von Meck ceased all social life. She withdrew into almost complete seclusion. She even refused to meet the relatives of those whom her children were going to marry, and never attended any of their weddings.
By all accounts von Meck was imperious by nature, presiding over her household as a despot. She liked—and demanded—her own way, surrounding herself with only those persons who would give it to her. She ruled her children's lives in every detail. As they grew into adulthood, she arranged their marriages, bought houses for them and furniture for the houses. When she wanted to see her married children, she summoned rather than invited them. Understandably, her children were not always grateful for the extreme degree of their mother's care (or meddling, depending on the viewpoint of the person concerned).
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