Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky by Nikolai Dimitriyevich Kuznetsov 1893

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer who lived from 1840 to 1893.  I would classify Tchaikovsky as “the composer’s composer”.  He was gifted in music seemingly from birth.  He began piano lessons at the age of four and could read piano music at a professional level by the age of seven.  No small feat.  Through the course of his life he rarely deviated from task, always writing and creating music of some sort.  He wrote music for ballets, Queens, Tsars, lovers, civic events, you name it, he wrote it.  All in all Tchaikovsky wrote literally hundreds of quality pieces making him one of the most prolific classical composers of all time.

Of everything Tchaikovsky wrote he will probably be most remembered for his ballets.  He had an immense skill for writing music that could be matched by physical movement.  One of the best examples of this would have to be The Nutcracker, also one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular compositions and nearly impossible  not to hear around Christmas time.  While Tchaikovsky himself is famous for not liking The Nutcracker it is probably the most popular ballet of all time, due primarily to it’s unique style, it’s staging.  To listen to it in it’s entirety you feel like you’re watching a ballet even if you aren’t.  The difference between each section of the suite is immense yet still held together by a grand theme.  While The Nutcracker initially premiered in 1892 and it has been played ever since, truly a timeless classic, the essence of the term “classical”.

I’ve found Tchaikovsky’s personal life to be of the typical hectic state you’d expect from a musical genius.  He was born to a middle class family who while initially got him involved in music wanted him to pursue a career in the civil servant world.  Of course he didn’t and went off to start his music career, then his mother died young, then he married a women he didn’t love because he was a latent homosexual, so instead he whored around all the time.  There was teh usual disagreemetns with collegues, who happened to be the other established Russian composers at the time.   For a good number of years he was sponsored by a wealthy widow who refused to ever see him face to face and never did, this enabled him to leave the Russian conservatory he had worked at up until that point and work solely on composing.  For something like 13 years he received pay from a person that refused to communicate with him other then by letter.  Upon the widow’s death he returned to the Russian conservatory and was made royalty by the Tsar eventually going on to die early at the age of 53.  Something like that.

Tchaikovsky wrote many major pieces.  I’ll name a few here, if you haven’t heard these before I’d strongly recommend you look them up.  This is a very small number of them intended to give you an inkling of what’s out there…

-Op.20 Swan Lake (1876)
-Op.37b The Seasons (1876)
-Op.45 Capriccio Italien 1880)
-Op.49 1812 Overture (1880)
-Op.56 Concert Fantasia (1884)
-Op.71 The Nutcracker (1892)

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