Tchaikovsky's Empire: A New Life of Russia's Greatest Composer

Coming Fall 2024

London: Yale University Press, 2024

A thrilling new biography of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky—composer of some of the world’s most popular orchestral and theatrical music

Tchaikovsky is famous for all the wrong reasons. Portrayed as a hopeless romantic, a suffering melancholic, or a morbid obsessive, the Tchaikovsky we think we know is a shadow of the fascinating reality. It is all too easy to forget that he composed an empire’s worth of music, and navigated the imperial Russian court to great advantage.

In this iconoclastic biography, celebrated author Simon Morrison re-creates Tchaikovsky’s complex world. His life and art were framed by Russian national ambition, and his work was the emanation of an imperial subject: kaleidoscopic, capacious, cosmopolitan, decentred.

Morrison reexamines the relationship between Tchaikovsky’s music, personal life, and politics; his support of Tsars Alexander II and III; and his engagement with the cultures of the imperial margins, in Ukraine, Poland, and the Caucasus. Tchaikovsky’s Empire unsettles everything we thought we knew—and gives us a vivid new appreciation of Russia’s most popular composer.

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From the University of California Press: Morrison's book about the iconic musician, and the book's namesake, Stevie Nicks.

A stunning musical biography of Stevie Nicks that paints a portrait of an artist, not a caricature of a superstar.

Diva, heroine, icon, and—to the most devoted—a goddess. Stevie Nicks resonates across generations, singing of spellcasters and dreamsmiths, stars of the silver screen, Joan of Arc, her grandmother Alice and Alice in Wonderland. This biography from distinguished music historian Simon Morrison examines Nicks as a singer and songwriter before and beyond her career with Fleetwood Mac, from the Arizona landscape of her childhood to the strobe-lit Night of 1000 Stevies celebrations.

Mirror in the Sky analyzes Nicks's craft—the grain of her voice, the poetry of her lyrics, the melodic and harmonic syntax of her songs—and identifies the American folk and country influences on her musical imagination that place her within a distinctly American tradition of women songwriters. Drawing from oral histories and surprising archival discoveries, Morrison connects Nicks's story to those of California's above- and underground music industries, innovations in recording technology, and gendered restrictions that rendered her femininity an object of fascination, and even fear. Reflective and expansive, Mirror in the Sky situates Stevie Nicks as one of the finest songwriters of the twentieth century.

Available to order via University of California Press.

Roxy Music's Avalon

Having designed Roxy Music as an haute couture suit hand-stitched of punk and progressive music, Bryan Ferry redesigned it. He made Roxy Music ever dreamier and mellower-reaching back to sadly beautiful chivalric romances. Dadaist (punk) noise exited; a kind of ambient soft soul entered. Ferry parted ways with Eno, electric violinist Eddie Jobson, and drummer Paul Thompson, foreswearing the broken-sounding synthesizers played by kitchen utensils, the chance-based elements, and the maquillage of previous albums.

The production and engineering imposed on Avalon confiscates emotion and replaces it with an acoustic simulacrum of courtliness, polished manners, and codes of etiquette. The seducer sings seductive music about seduction, but decorum is retained, as amour courtois insists.

Available at Bloomsbury.

Bolshoi Confidential


On a freezing night in January 2013, a hooded assailant hurled acid in the face of the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet. The crime, organized by a lead soloist, dragged one of Russia’s most illustrious institutions into scandal. The Bolshoi Theater had been a crown jewel during the reign of the tsars and an emblem of Soviet power throughout the twentieth century. Under Putin in the twenty-first century, it has been called on to preserve a priceless artistic legacy and mirror Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions. The attack and its torrid aftermath underscored the importance of the Bolshoi to the art of ballet, to Russia, and to the world.

Available at, Barnes & Noble and your local store where Liveright Publishing titles are sold. Bolshoi Confidential is now published in Japanese, French, and more than four international editions.

A list of corrections for the Norton Hardback and Paperback Editions available here.

Lina and Serge: The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev

Serge Prokofiev was one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant composers yet is an enigma to historians and his fans. Why did he leave the West and move to the Soviet Union despite Stalin’s crimes? Why did his astonishing creativity in the 1930s soon dissolve into a far less inspiring output in his later years? The answers can finally be revealed, thanks to Simon Morrison’s unique and unfettered access to the family’s voluminous papers and his ability to reconstruct the tragic, riveting life of the composer’s wife, Lina.

Available at and Barnes & Noble.

The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years

Sergey Prokofiev was one of the twentieth century's greatest composers—and one of its greatest mysteries. Until now. In The People's Artist, Simon Morrison draws on groundbreaking research to illuminate the life of this major composer, deftly analyzing Prokofiev's music in light of new archival discoveries. Indeed, Morrison was the first scholar to gain access to the composer's sealed files in the Russian State Archives, where he uncovered a wealth of previously unknown scores, writings, correspondence, and unopened journals and diaries. The story he found in these documents is one of lofty hopes and disillusionment, of personal and creative upheavals. Morrison shows that Prokofiev seemed to thrive on uncertainty during his Paris years, stashing scores in suitcases, and ultimately stunning his fellow emigrés by returning to Stalin's Russia.

Related Blog Postings:
Prokofiev’s Juliet’s Lives: Zora Šemberová
Rostropovich’s Recollections

Available at and Barnes & Noble.

Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement, Second Edition

Acclaimed for treading new ground in operatic studies of the period, Simon Morrison’s influential and now-classic text explores music and the occult during the Russian Symbolist movement. Including previously unavailable archival materials about Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, this wholly revised edition is both up to date and revelatory. Topics range from decadence to pantheism, musical devilry to narcotic-infused evocations of heaven, the influence of Wagner, and the significance of contemporaneous Russian literature. Symbolism tested boundaries and reached for extremes so as to imagine art uniting people, facilitating communion with nature, and ultimately transcending reality. Within this framework, Morrison examines four lesser-known works by canonical composers—Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Scriabin, and Sergey Prokofiev—and in this new edition also considers Alexander Gretchaninoff’s Sister Beatrice and Alexander Kastalsky’s Klara Milich, while also making the case for reviving Vladimir Rebikov’s The Christmas Tree.

Available at University of California Press and