Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

By Jacob Bruckheim

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Early Life

Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky was born in the town of Votkinsk, Russia on May 7, 1840. His family members were not particularly noteworthy. Tchaikovsky's father was an influential citizen. He was a magistrate and lived on a large estate with many serfs working for him. He even had has own private army of 100 Cossacks. His mother, Alexandra, was his father's second wife and was married when she was just 20 years old. Tchaikovsky adored his mother and she was responsible for bringing music into the lives of the Tchaikovsky family. However, Tchaikovsky was haunted by the memory of his mother's large, beautiful hands. "Such hands do not exist nowadays and never will again," Tchaikovsky said. Tchaikovsky was a softhearted boy.
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St. Petersburg

In November 1848, the family moved to St. Petersburg. Tchaikovsky was enrolled at Schmelling School and Tchaikovsky hated it. The school was hard on the students. School hours were from 8AM-5PM and Tchaikovsky often had to stay up until after midnight to finish his homework. Tchaikovsky was also bullied by other students. In February, Tchaikovsky got measles and was very ill for weeks. The illness took its toll on him. He now suffered from deep-seated nervous disorders that were to plague him for the rest of his life. This meant that he couldn't go to the School of Mining Engineers in St. Petersburg where his brother was a student.
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Full with Cannons)

1812 Overture

1812 Overture is one of Tchaikovsky's most famous works. It was written in 1880 as part of the celebrations commemorating the Tsar's Silver Junilee and Russia's defeat of Napoleon. Tchaikovsky regarded it as "very noisy" and felt that because he had written it "without the pealing of church bells and the boom of cannons", effects intended to suggest a great celebration. 1812 Overture is often preformed as the finale in a concert.

Other Known Music

  • Eugene Onegin
  • Fourth Symphony
  • Swan Lake
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Nutcracker Suite

Tchaikovsky's Legacy

Even though Tchaikovsky had some tough times in his life, he composed some of the greatest and most famous music pieces of all time. His struggle really shows just how great his music can be. The last word should belong to Tchaikovsky himself: "I have reached a very mature age without resting upon anything positive, without having calmed my restless spirit by either religion or philosophy. Undoubtedly I should have gone mad but for music. Music is indeed the most beautiful of all Heaven's gifts to humanity wandering in the darkness. Alone it calms, enlightens our souls. It is not the straw to which the drowning man clings; but a true friend, refuge and comforter, for whose sake life is worth living. Perhaps there will be no music in Heaven. Well, let us give our mortal life to it as long as it lasts."

Citations

Avrilfan2213, trans. “Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Full with Cannons).” Youtube. Susan Wojcicki, 21 Feb. 2011. Web. 17 Mar. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbxgYlcNxE8>.

“File:?????-?????????, 1903.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D0%A1%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BA%D1%82-%D0%9F%D0%B5%D1%82%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B1%D1%83%D1%80%D0%B3,_1903.jpg>.

“File:Tchaikovsky2.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tchaikovsky2.jpg>.