Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Essay, Research Paper

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is in my opinion one of the greatest classical music

composers of all time. He also had one of the most interesting lives I have ever read

about. Although he suffered through a large enormity of emotional problems and

nervous breakdowns, along with having to deal with harsh instances of love and death,

his music reflects these emotions in a very beautiful way.

Tchaikovsky (also spelled Chaikovsky or Tschaikovsky, and often referred to as

Peter), was born on May seventh, 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia. His father, Ilya Petrovitch

Tchaikvosky, was the superintendent of government owned mines, giving his family an

upper-class standing in Russia, and Tchaikovsky had a French governess (mostly because his mother was half-French). Although he was musically talented at a young age, his parents were unsupportive as he was kind of anxious and excitable, and they thought music would do him even more harm mentally. But even before age 10, he had already begun composing music.

Because of a transfer in his father?s job in about 1850, the family was moved to

Moscow and then to St. Petersburg, where Tchaikovsky was sent to the prepatory School of Jurisprudence, which was all male. He lived somewhat happily until his mother?s death four years later. He had loved her very much, almost abnormally, and was deeply

disturbed by it, with his father?s uncaring manner intensifying the matter even worse. To

help alleviate some of the pain involved, Tchaikovsky composed a short waltz for piano, with thoughts of composing an opera as well. Underlying homosexual desires also burdened him during this time, while attending an all-male school didn?t help it any. For the rest of these school years, the only musical education he got was random piano, singing, and harmony lessons, along with several opera attendances, which have been said to have ?lasting influences on his musical taste.?

In 1859, Tchaikovsky was hired as a clerk in the Ministry of Justices, while still holding fast his growing interest in music, resulting in his enrollment in the St. Petersburg

Conservatory of music in 1862. Peculiarly, he is told to have chewed on pieces of paper

from official documents unconciously, until he had eaten them all! Fortunately he quit this job a year later to set aside all his time to study music. His first shot at an orchestral

score in 1864 appalled his music teacher, but impressed the teacher?s brother, Nicholas

Rubinstien enough so he was offered a job as a professor of composition in the newly

founded Conservatory of Music in Moscow. This overture was based on a play called The Storm, and expressed the roots of his musical character.

For the first time of many, Tchaikovsky overworked himself in composing a symphony for Winter Daydreams in 1866, resulting in a mental breakdown. He then went on to write Romeo and Juliet fantasy-overture in 1869 based on a suggestion from the leader of a popular Russian music organization. The early to mid seventies proved to be about the lowest time in Tchaikovsky’s life. He wrote the nationalist comic opera Vakula the Smith, which was said to prove his natural charisma. He also composed Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor in 1876 to dedicate to Rubinstein, but Hans vo Bulow won the dedication after Rubinstien?s harsh criticism towards it.

Tchaikovsky?s romantic life was very unsuccessful. He tried his luck with the woman, all along hiding his homosexuality. His correspondence with Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck, begun in a friendly manner in 1876, was perhaps his only decent relationship he had with a woman. The first was an affair with Desiree Argot, followed by another nervous breakdown, partly due to his frustration in finishing Symphony Number Four in F Minor in 1877, and the Eugene Onegin, an opera based on a poem by Aleksandr Pushkin that he wrote in 1877-1878. About that time, Antonina Milyukova, a former student of his, threatened to commit suicide unless he married her, so he did so only because of how compassionately he felt about the heroine of the Eugene Onegin opera (Tatyana), whom he relates to Milyukova. After a futile attempt at suicide, Tchaikovsky finally divorced her, although she persisted him for some time. Afterwards, he accidentally fell in love with his nephew, which brought so much guilt upon him that he began heavily drinking and avoiding the family.

Finally a turning point in his life come about when Madame von Meck (a rich widow) offered him proceeds in agreement that he quits his professurship and dedicates himself to writing music because of her admiration for his work. Their letter writing reveals that this was an intimate yet healthy relationship for Tchaikovsky, and he wrote most of his music of that time because of her and dedicated a previously written symphony to her as well. Since they never met and as a result allowed more of a friendship-based relationship, his homosexuality didn?t seem to affect it.

He began writing rapidly in the late seventies and early eighties, working often in Europe, including Clarens, Switzerland. Included in these productions were Suite Number One in D Minor, the Maid of Orleans, Violin Concerto in D Major, Serenade for Strings in C Major, 1812 Overture, and Manfred Symphony. In 1879 Eugene Onegin was performed in Moscow, much to his surprise, and became very popular in St. Petersburg. In 1881 Rubinstein died, and Tchaikovsky dedicated his Tio to him in his memory. These were some of his better achievements at the time and overall in his composing life.

His work from this time until the end of his life included much traveling around the world. In 1885 he moved to a country house near Klin, and began traveling more in Russia. Tchaikovsky also began conducting, first at St. Petersburg in 1887, and went on a foreign tour to Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Paris, and London, with much success, and probably being the summit of his later career. He also finished his Fifth Symphony in E Minor. The Sleeping Beauty (his favorite ballet), the Queen of Spades and much of his older work proved very successful. Yet he had another nervous breakdown, and his deep emotional problems showed in his work. This was probably caused by the death of his sister and his split with Madame von Meck in 1990, in which he never forgave her.

From 1891 to 1893 he toured throughout the United States and England. In 1893 he received an honorary degree of doctor of music, along with Boito, Brush, Saint-Saens and Grieg after returning to a country home in Kiln. The Nutcracker ballet music that he wrote in 1892 was very successful (although it was written rather quickly and rashly), but didn?t suppress any tension from his difficulties with von Meck. His last work, Symphony Number Six in B Minor, Tchaikovsky had worked especially hard on and considered his greatest of all, yet it was not very well received.

The end of Tchaikovsky?s life came later on October 28th 1893, when he committed suicide (we think) of which causes we are unsure of. Some say it had something to do with his romantic relationship with a man in the royal family, others blame it on his futile last symphony. In any event, he died of cholera disease, which was killing many people in St. Petersburg at that time. It is said that although he somewhat drifted away from Russian nationalism, his work at the least has without a doubt a Russian edge to it. He is now regarded as a master composer of the classic ballet, with his last few works being the most famous. Tchaikovsky may have been influenced more by his emotions than any other composer ever, but they were brought out in his work with such splendor that we regard him as one of the most brilliant of all time.



1. Daniel Gregory Mason for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ????.

2. Unknown Author,

3. Robert Sherrane, Cataloging librarian, The Juilliard School, New York ????.

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