Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Template:Audio (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский, sometimes transliterated as Piotr, Anglicized as Peter Ilich), (May 7, 1840November 6, 1893 (N.S.); April 25, 1840October 25, 1893 (O.S.)) was a Russian composer of the Romantic era. Although not a member of the group of nationalistic composers usually known in English-speaking countries as The Five, his music has come to be known and loved for its distinctly Russian character as well as its rich harmonies and stirring melodies. His works, however, were much more western than his Russian contemporaries as he effectively used both nationalistic folk melodies and international elements.



Tchaikovsky was born in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russia, to a Ukrainian mining engineer and his second wife, a woman of French ancestry. His last name derives from Tchaika (чайка) which means gull. Musically precocious, he began piano lessons at the age of five. He obtained an excellent general eduation at the School of Jurisprudence and was a civil servant before entering the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1861 to 1865. In 1866, he was appointed professor of theory and harmony at the Moscow Conservatory, established that year. He held the post until approximately 1878.

While at the School of Jurisprudence during his puberty, Tchaikovsky discovered his sexual attraction to other adolescent boys. As he matured to manhood, this evolved into pederasty. As a young man he fell in love with a (female) soprano, but she married another man. One of his conservatory students, Antonina Milyukova, began writing him passionate letters around the time that he had made up his mind to "marry whoever will have me." He didn't even remember her from his classes, but her letters were very persistent, and he hastily married her on July 18, 1877. Within days, while still on their honeymoon, he deeply regretted his decision. Two weeks after the wedding the composer attempted suicide by wading in a cold river. He later fled to Saint Petersburg a nervous wreck, and was separated from his wife after only six weeks. The couple never saw each other again, although they never divorced and Tchaikovsky died a married man. His widow died in an insane asylum 24 years later. (Greenberg)

A far more influential woman in Tchaikovsky's life was a wealthy widow, Madame Nadezhda von Meck, with whom he exchanged 1,200 letters between 1877 and 1890. He dedicated his Fourth Symphony to her. At her insistence they never met; they did encounter each other on two occasions, purely by chance, but did not converse. She expressed her interest in his musical career and admiration for his music, and she financed his expenses -- by the end giving him 6,000 rubles a year. However, she abruptly cut off her support for Tchaikovsky and did not return his last letter, which he sent to assure her that his friendship with her was not predicated on the money she gave him. It is widely believed that broke off the relationship because she found out about Tchaikovsky's sexual orientation. It is possible she was planning to marry off one of her daughters to Tchaikovsky, as she also tried unsuccessfully to marry one of them to Claude Debussy, who had lived in Russia for a time as music teacher to her family. It was during this period that Tchaikovsky achieved success throughout Europe and (by his own account) even greater accolades in the United States in 1891.

Just nine days after the first performance of his Sixth Symphony, Pathtique, in 1893, in St. Petersburg, Tchaikovsky died.

Details of his death have been a source of controversy for more than a century, and never more so than after 1980, when Aleksandra Orlova published a detailed theory explaining Tchaikovsky's death as a suicide. According to Orlova, Tchaikovsky committed suicide by consuming small doses of arsenic. His death took four days and was planned to be consistent with symptoms of cholera.

The cover story was that he drank infected water, from which he acquired cholera. In reality, according to Orlova's theory, a former classmate from the School of Jurisprudence came into posession of a letter from a member of the Russian aristocracy addressed to the Tzar that complained of Tchaikovsky's affair with the aristocrat's nephew. The letter bearer gathered six other classmates living in St. Petersburg, and they confronted Tchaikovsky. They gave him the singular option of killing himself to avoid the publicity of the scandal, which would dishonor the school. According to the theory, Tchaikovsky's own brother, Modest, also a homosexual, helped conspire to keep the secret.

Tchaikovsky was interred in Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Saint Petersburg.

His life, somewhat embroidered, is the subject of Ken Russell's motion picture The Music Lovers.

Musical Works


Tchaikovsky is perhaps most well known for his ballets, although it was only in his last years, with his two last ballets, that his contemporaries came to really appreciate his qualities as ballet music composer.


Tchaikovsky wrote ten operas, including:


Tchaikovsky's earlier symphonies are generally happy works of nationalistic character, while the later symphonies dwell on fate, turmoil and, particularly in the Sixth, despair.

He also wrote four orchestral suites between the 4th and 5th symphonies. He originally intended to call one or more of these "symphony" but was persuaded to alter the title. The four suites are nonetheless symphonic in character, and often neglected masterpieces of orchestral writing.


  • (1878): His Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, was composed in less than a month during March and April 1878, but its first performance was delayed until 1881 because Leopold Auer, the violinist to whom Tchaikovsky had intended to dedicate the work, refused to perform it.
  • (1889): The so-called "Third Piano Concerto in E flat major", Op. 75, has a curious history. It was commenced after the 5th symphony, and was intended to be his next symphony, ie. his 6th. However he abandoned work on this score and instead directed his efforts towards what we now know as the Sixth Symphony, which is a completely different work (the 'Pathtique'). After Tchaikovsky's death, the composer Sergei Taneyev re-worked the abandoned symphony, added a piano part, and published it as "Third Piano Concerto by Tchaikovsky". However, a more accurate title would be "An unfinished symphony by Tchaikovsky, realised for piano and orchestra by Taneyev". The unfinished symphony was also completed by the Soviet composer Semyon Bogatyrev and published as "Symphony No 7 in E flat major".

Other works

For orchestra

For choir, songs, chamber music, and for solo piano

For a complete list of works by opus number, see [1] ( For more detail on dates of composition, see [2] (


Template:Multi-listen start Template:Multi-listen item Template:Multi-listen item Template:Multi-listen item Template:Multi-listen item Template:Multi-listen end

See also

Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 (1876): Fantasia after Canto V of the Inferno from Dante's Divine Comedy


  • Meck Galina Von, Tchaikovsky Ilyich Piotr, Young Percy M. Tchaikovsky Cooper Square Publishers; 1st Cooper Square Press ed edition (October, 2000) ISBN 0815410875
  • Meck, Nadezhda Von Tchaikovsky Peter Ilyich, To My Best Friend: Correspondence Between Tchaikovsky and Nadezhda Von Meck 1876-1878 Oxford University Press (January 1, 1993) ISBN 0198161581
  • Tchaikovsky, Modeste The Life And Letters Of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky University Press of the Pacific (2004) ISBN 1410216128

External links

cy:Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky da:Pjotr Iljitj Tjajkovskij de:Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowski es:Piotr Ilich Chaikovski fa:پیتر چایکوفسکی fr:Piotr Ilitch Tchakovski it:Piotr Ilič Čaikovskij nl:Pjotr Iljitsj Tsjaikovski ja:ピョートル・チャイコフスキー nb:Pjotr Illitsj Tsjajkovskij nn:Peter Tsjajkovskij pl:Piotr Czajkowski ru:Чайковский, Пётр Ильич sl:Peter Iljič Čajkovski fi:Pjotr Tšaikovski sv:Peter Tjajkovskij uk:Чайковський Петро zh:彼得·伊里奇·柴科夫斯基


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools