Who is Tchaikovsky?

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, a well-known Russian composer, was born in the Vyatka province in the spring of 1840. He was exposed to music, literature, and languages as a child, and the age of six, he could read French, German, and Russian. In 1850, he enrolled in a preparatory course for the School of Jurisprudence in St. Petersburg, where he studied piano and composed music. He began attending the school in 1852 and remained there until 1859. Tchaikovsky composed his first surviving work while there, a waltz dedicated to his second governess in 1854.

His father arranged for him to take piano lessons during his senior year of high school, and he also met an Italian singing instructor, and his exposure to Italian music influenced his taste. He continued his studies of music after some travel and enrolled in the St. Petersburg Conservatory when it opened in 1862. He spent three years there and had his first public performance the summer before his graduation, when Johann Strauss Jr. conducted his work Characteristic Dances at a concert near St. Petersburg in 1865.

Tchaikovsky then relocated to Moscow, where he began teaching music theory at the school that would later become the Moscow Conservatory, accepting a position offered to him the director, Nikolay Rubinstein, who would conduct Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture in 1869. Romeo and Juliet became the first of his works to be considered part of the classical repertoire, despite being written after his first symphony, which he composed in 1866, and his first opera, The Voyevoda, which he completed in 1868.

His first string quartet was a critical success when it premiered in 1871, but several operas he composed soon after were not. Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto was famously dismissed Rubinstein as unplayable, but Hans von Bülow premiered it in Boston in 1875, and it has remained a perennial favorite. He had also completed two more symphonies the summer of 1875.

Swan Lake, the first of the three ballets for which Tchaikovsky is perhaps best known, was composed in 1876. Nutcracker was written in 1892, and The Sleeping Beauty was written between 1888 and 1889. He finished his fourth symphony, the Violin Concerto in D Major, as well as his opera Eugene Onegin, in 1878. He composed Capriccio italien, Serenade for Strings, and the 1812 Overture in 1880. In 1888 and 1893, he composed his fifth and sixth symphonies, respectively.

In 1891, Tchaikovsky was invited to conduct the inaugural concert at Carnegie Hall. He became ill with cholera shortly after the premiere of his final symphony Pathétique and died four days later.