THE BOOK: Coda, A Tale of Tchaikovsky’s Secret Love

PUBLISHED IN: October 1, 2016

THE AUTHOR: Arthur J. Levy

THE EDITOR: Ken Harrington

THE PUBLISHER: Köehler Books,

SUMMARY: At the peak of his career and popularity, Russian icon Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky died mysteriously. Rumors were that he died of cholera – unlikely, as Tchaikovsky’s house staff was well aware that water should be boiled. There are other possible scenarios of the untimely death of this healthy man in his early fifties.

In 19th century Russia, being gay was perilous. The punishment was severe; knowing someone was gay and not reporting it warranted torture, if not death. Tchaikovsky was gay.

Arthur J. LevyThis account of foreboding doom reveals a secret between Tchaikovsky and his lover, Ivan, encoded in sheet music. Tchaikovsky’s plan is to stealthily evade death. That encoded blueprint survived to this day. Coda is fiction, but is anchored on carefully researched historical literature and Tchaikovsky’s letters.

In a parallel, current-day story line, Fred is given this mystical music in a Russian antiques shop in NYC and finds that there are modern-day zealots that will stop at nothing to destroy all evidence that Tchaikovsky had a lover. These zealots have crosshairs on those who know too much. The adventure takes Fred and friends from Brooklyn to Moscow to save a life. 

THE BACK STORY: Coda is a story stirred by personal experience, anchored to historical events. Some time ago, I inherited a stack of piano music from an old man. I turned the yellowing pages, looking for interesting pieces to play, and became fascinated by one sonata that was curiously annotated with scrawling notes. The depth of the comments gave a haunting feeling that these were not ordinary teacher’s comments. This was a love letter encrypted in a scattering of loosely connected impassioned phrases. Except for the crumbling pages, I had no perspective of the period of these writings nor the motivations of the author. The enigmatic warmth of the annotations projected images in my mind of a covert relationship and a possible drama, perhaps a secret gay connection that mustn’t have been discovered?

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was in just that predicament. He was idolized and cherished by his Russia. Nineteenth century Russia competed with France and Germany as the center of culture. They desperately needed to parade world-known and loved Tchaikovsky as their awless, signature icon to promote commerce as well as their culture. Tchaikovsky was aunted as unblemished; if otherwise, it would have threatened the beloved Russia and the Tsar.

But Tchaikovsky was gay in a country that tortured, exiled and executed homosexuals. I looked at the cryptic notes in my music and pictured Tchaikovsky communicating to his lover—a plan, some cryptic plan, to elude the Tsar’s spies and the powerful Russian Orthodox Church.

I assumed the writings that did survive were sought after by zealots of the Fatherland and were a deadly danger to those who possessed them.

The last year of Tchaikovsky’s life, culminating in his enigmatically constructed final symphony, the Pathétique, is shrouded in mystery. The accounts of his death are steeped in secrecy and rumors as if published in a 19th century tabloid. This story is one interpretation of those final years. Some of the characters are purely fictional. 

WHY THIS TITLE? The coda, in music, is a pathway to the end, an escape. The symbol is a crosshairs.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: The underlying philosophy of Coda reflects the dangerous alliances that power must make to sustain control. It happened in 1890’s Russia and is happening the identical way with Putin. Because of the timeliness of the novel’s view of LGBT oppression in today’s Russia, I believe that a wide audience will be very interested.


“This is an ‘I can’t put it down’ thriller. Its plot is intricate, its characters fully developed, and its descriptive passages rich in detail. is is a highly recommended work.” —Dan Clancy, Playwright

Coda is a thriller that forever changed my view of Tchaikovsky’s life and times. As it reminds us of the corrupting price of power, it is especially meaningful today.” —George R. Zuber, Filmmaker/Director

“Arthur Levy scripts a compelling narrative that kept me glued to the page. Tchaikovsky’s doom in the extreme prejudice of Czarist Russia parallels the status of today’s Russian gay community. Levy proves a plausible and unique conclusion for the Pathetique Symphony in place of the traditional music history legend.” —Dr. R. Paul Urbanick, Professor Humanities/Music

Coda is fascinating reading that makes history and the story of Tchaikovsky come alive. What makes Coda an exceptional novel is the quality research behind this book, which animates the action in the reader’s imagination. Arthur Levy gives life and insights to life by writing about one of the most interesting musicians in history, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I listened to his sixth symphony as I read this intriguing book. Don’t miss the opportunity to be drawn into a mystery that you won’t want to put down.” —Dr. Tim White, Author, Ulysses Dream, Adjunct Professor, Northwest University.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Arthur J. Levy is a musician, physicist and writer. He has appeared in Carnegie hall, played with the NYC All City Orchestra and other settings in New York. His writing includes: the book, Trouble in Flatbush, A Year in the Life of a Boy in Brooklyn, two plays and many short stories published in a local magazine. His heritage is Russian and has a kinship to Russian history and music. 

AUTHOR COMMENTS: This is a fast-reading mystery/thriller/LGBT/historical novel.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link).

LOCAL OUTLETS: Any bookstore

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:, Barnes& (search “CODA LEVY”)

PRICE:SOFT COVER: $18.95, 978-1-63393-303-3    HARD COVER: $28.95 978-1-63393-305-7    EBOOK: $4.99, 978-1-63393-304-0



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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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