Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, 1840, 1893

Sophia Chowdhury

Early Life

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840, in Vyatka, Russia. Tchaikovsky's family members were not particularly noteworthy, either for their abilities or for their interest in music. Ilya Petrovich, Tchaikovsky's father was an influential citizen in Votkinsk. Tchaikovsky's mother was Alexandra. This was Tchaikovsky's father's second wife. It was Alexandra who really brought music into the Tchaikovsky family, hosting musical soirees in their Votkinsk home. Tchaikovsky had a half-sister named Zinaida, an older brother named Nikolay, and a younger sister, Alexandra which he loved and who was to be a stabilizing force in his life, a younger brother named Ippolit, and twin brothers named Modest and Anatol, who he was very close to.

Where He Lived

Tchaikovsky resigned from the Moscow Conservatory in 1878, and spent the rest of his career composing yet more prolifically. He died in St. Petersburg on November 6, 1893. Early Life.
P. I. Tchaikovsky - Ballet "Swan Lake" (excerpts), Op. 20 (Fedoseyev)


Tchaikovsky wrote 103 songs. While he may not be remembered as a composer of lieder, he produced a larger number of works than their comparative neglect would suggest, often concentrating into a few pages a musical image that would seem to ideally match the substance of the text. The songs are extremely varied and a wide range of genres - drama and short songs of everyday life; folk tunes and waltzes. Tchaikovsky is most successful when writing on the subject of love and its loss or frustration. The songs are marked by several features: artistic simplicity, artlessness of musical language, variety and originality of melody and richness of accompaniment. The songs helped cross-pollinate the composer's work in other genres, with many of his operatic arias closely related to them. While "None but the Lonely Heart" may be the one of his finest songs, as well as perhaps the best-known in the West, the Six Romances, Op. 65 and the Six Romances, Op. 73 are especially recommendable.

Other Famous Music

Brown calls Tchaikovsky's first ballet, Swan Lake, "a very remarkable and bold achievement." The genre on the whole was mainly "a decorative spectacle" when Swan Lake was written, which made Tchaikovsky's attempt to "incorporate a drama that was more than a convenient series of incidents for mechanically shifting from one divertissement to the next ... almost visionary." However, while the composer showed considerable aptitude in writing music that focused on the drama of the story, the demand for set pieces undercut his potential for complete success. The lengthy divertissements he supplied for two of the ballet's four acts display a "commendable variety of character" but divert action (and audience attention) away from the main plot. Moreover, Brown adds, the formal dance music is uneven, some of it "quite ordinary, a little even trite." Despite these handicaps, Swan Lake gives Tchaikovsky many opportunities to showcase his gift for melody and, as Brown points out, has proved "indestructible" in popular appeal. The oboe solo associated with Odette and her swans, which first appears at the end of Act 1, is one of the composer's best–known themes.

Tchaikovsky's Legacy

The premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, the ‘Pathétique’ was performed on October 30, 1893. Peculiarly, nine days later, in Saint Petersburg, Tchaikovsky expired there at the age of 53. Speculations had been made whether he died due to cholera or whether his death was a suicide. He was buried in ‘Tikhvin’ Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Tchaikovsky has left an impressive legacy behind! He made an impact not only in symphonies and operas but also in program music. He converted Liszt's and Berlioz's achievements into themes of Shakespearean elevation! His approach to Western harmonies, helped in spreading the music not only in Russia but also to the world at large. As a Russian composer, he pioneered in familiarizing foreign audiences with his own works, as well as those of other Russian composers.