Pjotr I. Tschaikowski


Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 and was the second oldest of six children. He grew up in the family of a mining engineer and received piano lessons at an early age. Only after his education at the Imperial Law School in St. Petersburg and subsequent work as a secretary in the Ministry of Justice did he consider a career as a musician more seriously. From 1861, he attended music theory courses and in autumn 1862 entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory founded by Anton Rubinstein, from which he graduated in 1865 with a cantata on Schiller's Ode to Joy. As a composition student of Rubinstein, he was influenced above all by the music of Beethoven, Schumann and Mendelssohn. In addition, he made his own studies, played piano for four hands with fellow student and later important critic Herman A. Laroche, and attended concerts and operas. Impressed by composers such as Meyerbeer, Berlioz and Liszt, Tchaikovsky found his own compositional style in almost all musical genres during his years in Moscow from 1866 to 1877, when he was professor of music theory, harmony and composition at the Moscow Conservatory and also worked as a music columnist. With the 4th Symphony and the opera Eugene Onegin of 1877 and 1878 at the latest, he established himself as the leading Russian composer of his generation. He was supported by the patron Nadeschda Filaretowna von Meck, wife of a railway entrepreneur, with whom he also maintains an intensive pen friendship. The recognition of his homosexuality, which he could never admit publicly due to the moral standards of the time, plunged him into a deep crisis and preoccupied him throughout his life. In 1877, he entered into a hasty marriage with Antonina I. Miljukowa, although they hardly knew each other. After only a few weeks, they lived apart again. From 1878 to 1893 he wrote a large number of operas and ballets, orchestral and chamber music, liturgical and secular choral works, piano music and romances. In addition, Tchaikovsky undertook successful concert tours in Russia to Western Europe and the USA as a conductor of mostly his own works. His compositions, which are characterised by a great formal and stylistic richness, an exuberant, flowering melodicism and a refined palette of colours in his instrumentation, were often worked out in a self-disciplined manner in rural seclusion or abroad. His ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker are among the highlights of the genre. Many plans remained unrealised when Tchaikovsky dies nine days after the premiere of the 6th Symphony, which he conducted, in 1893, most likely as a result of a cholera infection.