Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: "Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy."
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky: A Fast and Friendly Guide
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was a Russian composer whose works included symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, and chamber music.
Life and Music
- Tchaikovsky was born on May 7th 1840 in Votkinsk, a small town in the Russian Empire.
- He displayed exceptional musical ability from an early age, improvising at the piano and composing his first song in 1844, aged four.
- Tchaikovsky persuaded his father that music was his future and he began composition lessons with Anton Rubinstein in 1861.
- Between 1871 and 1876 he produced a series of great works, including Swan Lake (1876) and the First Piano Concerto (1875), which established him as Russia’s leading composer.
- Following his ill-fated, short-lived marriage in 1877, he made a failed attempt at committing suicide.
- 1880 saw Tchaikovsky compose perhaps his most famous piece, the 1812 Overture - cannons at the ready!
- By 1887, he was conducting his own music to great acclaim and producing such works as the Sixth Symphony, the 'Pathetique' in 1893 (the year of his death) and the ballets The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and The Nutcracker (1892).
- His death in 1893 in St. Petersburg was believed to be as a result of a decision made by a ‘court of honour’ following revelations that Tchaikovsky had formed a relationship with a male member of the Russian aristocracy; it was apparently decided that the only course of action open to the composer was for him to commit suicide. It is more commonly attributed to cholera, however.
Did you know?
The day Tchaikovsky’s mother left him at boarding school was so traumatic that it remained in his memory to the end of his days. He had to be torn away from her, and even then he clung on to the wheels of her carriage to stop her leaving. It’s little wonder, given his sensitive nature, that his music is imbued with such a strong sense of emotion and despair.
Tchaikovsky: facts about the great composer
How much do you know about Tchaikovsky, one of the romantic era's greatest composers? Our handy facts gallery will shed light on his life, loves and music.
Find out more about Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty. Watch and listen to different recordings and download your favourite.
Find out more about Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings. Watch and listen to different recordings and download your favourite.
Find out more about Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, listen to recordings and download your favourite
Find out more about Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Watch and listen to different recordings and download your favourite.
Find out more about Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Watch and listen to different recordings and download your favourite.
Looks like a mystery musician loves Tchaikovsky a little too much, after holding on to a score for almost six decades
The broadcaster and writer uses Tchaikovsky to illustrate his point in an open letter to the Prime Minister and the IOC
Classic FM Drive Featured Album, 14 July 2014
John Suchet's Album of the Week, 16 June 2014
Follow Classic FM's guide to Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, a festive favourite that remains his most endearing and best-loved ballet
Get the story behind Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece Swan Lake, a ballet that continues to thrill audiences with its romance, drama, tragedy and exquisite score
Top Tchaikovsky Pieces
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