Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, also spelled Chaikovsky, Chaikovskii, or Tschaikowsky, was a Russian composer who lived from 1840 1893. He was born in Votkinsk, Russia, on April 25 [May 7, New Style], and died in St. Petersburg on October 25 [November 6], 1893. His music has always appealed to a broad audience due to its catchy, open-hearted melodies, excellent harmonies, and colorful, picturesque orchestration, all of which elicit a strong emotional response. 7 symphonies, 11 operas, three ballets, five suites, three piano concertos, a violin concerto, 11 overtures (strictly speaking, three overtures and eight single-movement programmatic orchestral works), four cantatas, 20 choral works, three string quartets, a string sextet, and over 100 songs and piano pieces are among his works. Ilya Tchaikovsky, a manager of the Kamsko-Votkinsk metal works, and Alexandra Assier, a descendant of French émigrés, had six children, the second of whom was Tchaikovsky. His early musical influences came from an orchestrina in the family home, and he had a clear interest in music since childhood. At the age of four, he recorded his first album, which he co-wrote with his younger sister Alexandra. In 1845, he started taking piano lessons with a local teacher, through which he learned Frédéric Chopin's mazurkas and Friedrich Kalkbrenner's piano parts. Tchaikovsky's parents had not considered that their son would pursue a musical career since music education was not available in Russian institutions at the time. Instead, they decided to train the emotional and high-strung boy for a career in the civil service.
Tchaikovsky enrolled in the prestigious Imperial School of Jurisprudence in St. Petersburg in 1850, where he spent nine years as a boarding student. He was a hardworking and disciplined student who was well-liked by his classmates. At the same time, Tchaikovsky developed emotionally solid bonds with many of his classmates in this all-male setting. His mother contracted cholera and died in 1854. Tchaikovsky's father eventually realized his son's vocation during the boy's final years at school and invited experienced teacher Rudolph Kündinger to give him piano lessons. At the age of 17, Tchaikovsky was influenced by Italian singing teacher Luigi Piccioli, who was the first to recognize his musical abilities. He developed a lifelong love for Italian music. Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was another discovery that profoundly influenced his musical taste. For the first time in the summer of 1861, he traveled outside of Russia, visiting Germany, France, and England. In October of that year, he started taking music lessons at the newly formed Russian Musical Society. Tchaikovsky was one of the first students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory when it opened the following fall. He resigned from the Ministry of Justice, where he had worked as a clerk, after deciding to devote his life to music. Tchaikovsky studied harmony and counterpoint with Nikolay Zaremba and composition and instrumentation with Anton Rubinstein at the St. Petersburg Conservatory for nearly three years. An overture titled The Storm (composed 1864), a mature attempt at dramatic program music was among his earliest orchestral works. In August 1865, Johann Strauss the Younger performed Tchaikovsky's Characteristic Dances at a concert in Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg, which was the first public performance of any of his works. Tchaikovsky moved to Moscow after graduating in December 1865 to teach music theory at the Russian Musical Society, which was soon called the Moscow Conservatory. He found teaching challenging, but his friendship with Nikolay Rubinstein, the director who had initially offered him the job, made it bearable. Tchaikovsky wrote his first symphony, Symphony No. 1 in G Minor (composed 1866; Winter Daydreams), and his first opera, The Voyevoda, in less than five years (1868).
Tchaikovsky met Désirée Artôt, a Belgian mezzo-soprano, in 1868 and briefly considered marrying her, but their engagement ended in disappointment. The opera The Voyevoda was well received, even by The Five, a powerful party of nationalistic Russian composers who did not appreciate Tchaikovsky's cosmopolitanism. Tchaikovsky completed Romeo and Juliet in 1869, an overture in which he subtly modified sonata form to mirror Shakespeare's dramatic structure. The following year, Nikolay Rubinstein conducted an excellent performance of this piece, and it became the first of Tchaikovsky's works to be included in the standard international classical repertoire.
In March 1871, the audience at Moscow's Hall of Nobility witnessed Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 1, and in April 1872, he finished another opera, The Oprichnik. He started work on his Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, later called The Little Russian while spending the summer at his sister's estate in Ukraine. He completed it later that year. The Oprichnik was first performed in April 1874 at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. Despite its initial popularity, the opera failed to impress critics, with whom Tchaikovsky eventually came to terms. Vakula the Smith (1874), later revised as Cherevichki (1885; The Little Shoes), received a similar reception. In his early operas, the young composer struggled to balance his artistic zeal and his ability to evaluate the work in progress critically. Tchaikovsky's instrumental works, on the other hand, started to gain him a reputation. At the end of 1874, he wrote his Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, a work that would become popular despite Rubinstein's initial rejection. In October 1875, the concerto was successfully premiered in Boston, with Hans von Bülow as the soloist. Tchaikovsky wrote Symphony No. 3 in D Major in 1875, and it received almost immediate acclaim in Russia.