Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

Composer
Born May 7, 1840 in Kamsko-Votinsk, Russia. Died Nov. 6, 1893 in St. Petersburg, Russia.


Tchaikovsky personified the Romantic soul. Brought up far from music, he gave himself over at first to a career in law but his sensitivity and musical gifts rapidly took over. Aged twenty-two, he left his administrative post and met Anton Rubinstein with whom he undertook serious study of composition. His encounters with Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov were to be decisive for his musical orientation. Tchaikovsky then composed his first masterpieces: some symphonies, four operas and his first piano concerto, which has known unfailing success ever since its first performance in 1875.

Angst-ridden, Tchaikovsky was to suffer throughout his life from insomnia, depression and panic attacks. Spared from any material worries for thirteen years by his patron, Madame von Meck, Tchaikovsky devoted himself entirely to his compositions without ever meeting the generous baroness. In 1893, he composed the Pathétique Symphony, an orchestral masterpiece of rare intensity, and mysteriously died nine days after completing the score. Officially, he succumbed to cholera although it was possible that he died of arsenic poisoning in order to silence the “scandal” of his homosexuality, which was a dishonour to the Law School of his youth.

Profoundly melancholic, Tchaikovsky’s music remains timeless; traditional symphonic art, which works miracles in his symphonies, alternates with freer forms of programme music. His often nostalgic, lyrical expression allied with perfectly controlled writing, made Tchaikovsky one of the masters of ballet music. Between grace and destitution, the composer left pages of miraculous poetry.