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(1840-1893).  Tchaikovsky wrote music in every genre, including symphonies, operas, chamber music, concertos, and art songs.  After early studies in law, he turned to music, and eventually enrolled in the St. Petersburg Conservatory, making him the only major Russian composer of the era with a formal musical education.  But it is his tremendous gift for melody which most distinguishes his music from his Russian contemporaries.  Despite repeated episodes of personal turmoil and depression, he rarely allowed these difficulties to interfere with his composing. 

His influence on the next generation of Russian composers was enormous.  He was idolized by the young Stravinsky, and revered by Rachmaninov throughout his life.

Tchaikovsky's Symphonies no 4, 5, and 6 (Pathetique) are THE definitive Russian symphonies of the 19th century.  His Concerto for Violin and the Piano Concert no 1 are among the most popular of the romantic era.  His important orchestral works include the fantasy-overture "Romeo and Juliet", the 1812 Overture, March Slav, Capriccio Italien, and the symphonic fantasy "Francesca da Rimini".

His opera "Eugen Onegin" is the most widely performed Russian opera.  "Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake" remain staples of the ballet repertoire, and his "Sleeping Beauty" is considered the most perfect story-ballet ever created.  Tchaikovsky's many art songs, and his 3 String Quartets are among his most intimate musical expressions.


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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer, pianist, and teacher born on May 7, 1840 (Brahms was born on the same day, May 7, though seven years earlier.) He is most famous for his Nutcracker ballet music and 1812 Overture. Though not usually accorded a place among the greats – Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms - the bulk of the music he wrote is still very much in the standard repertoire – his six symphonies, his operas, his violin concerto, his Rococo variations for cello, his first piano concerto, his other ballet scores, his concert overtures, and his chamber music – and will probably remain there forever.

Tchaikovsky began his piano studies at age 5; however, he did not enter the recently-founded St Petersburg Conservatory until 1862 (age 22) because his family did not want him pursuing a career in music (his early education – 1850 to 1859 - had prepared him for a career as a civil servant.) He actually worked in the Ministry of Justice until 1863. From the conservatory he graduated in 1865. Tchaikovsky enjoyed much acclaim and financial security for most of his life though his life was emotionally tumultuous, not unlike that of Beethoven, Schumann, Mussorgsky, Bizet, and others. His first symphony (1866) was well received when given its premiere in Moscow in 1868, the same year he fell madly in love with the Belgian soprano, Desiree Artot, whom he did not get over until about 1888.

Tchaikovsky also taught at the Moscow Conservatory from 1866 until 1878. Because of him, the name of his patroness of 13 years (and whom he never met) has been immortalized (Nadezhda Von Meck.) Their correspondence took place between 1877 and 1890. Due to her generosity, he was able to resign from the conservatory and concentrate on composition. In 1877, Tchaikovsky married Antonina Miliukova, the product of a dysfunctional family and a former student of his. They stayed together for six weeks then separated, though never divorced. The violin concerto dates from about this sad time.

In the mid 1880s, Tchaikovsky took up conducting and frequently traveled. He made it as far as the U.S. in 1891, conducting at the inaugural concert of Carnegie Hall. Tchaikovsky died on November 6, 1893, at age 53.
This biography was most recently edited by...
steven - 23 Nov 2010
steven - 8 Feb 2010
steven - 8 Feb 2010
steven - 22 Sep 2009
steven - 22 Sep 2009
violinhunter - 2 Jun 2009
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