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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Overview
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky tʃaɪˈkɒfski (Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ˈpʲɵtr ɪlʲˈjitɕ tɕɪjˈkofskʲɪj; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" ˈpiːtər ˈɪlɨtʃ tʃaɪˈkɒvski in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij" and "Chaikovsky" (and other versions; the transliteration varies among languages).
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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky tʃaɪˈkɒfski (Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ˈpʲɵtr ɪlʲˈjitɕ tɕɪjˈkofskʲɪj; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" ˈpiːtər ˈɪlɨtʃ tʃaɪˈkɒvski in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij" and "Chaikovsky" (and other versions; the transliteration varies among languages). The Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 standardized the usage Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky.
) (May 7, 1840 – November 6, 1893Russia was still using old style dates
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

 in the 19th century, rendering his lifespan as April 25, 1840 – October 25, 1893. Some sources in the article report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates are expressed here in the same style as the source from which they come.
) was a Russian composer of the Romantic
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 era. His wide-ranging output includes symphonies
Symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

, operas, ballets, instrumental
Instrumental
An instrumental is a musical composition or recording without lyrics or singing, although it might include some non-articulate vocal input; the music is primarily or exclusively produced by musical instruments....

, chamber music
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

 and songs. He wrote some of the most popular concert and theatrical music in the classical repertoire, including the ballets Swan Lake
Swan Lake
Swan Lake ballet, op. 20, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, composed 1875–1876. The scenario, initially in four acts, was fashioned from Russian folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse. The choreographer of the original production was Julius Reisinger...

, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St...

, the 1812 Overture
1812 Overture
The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49, popularly known as the 1812 Overture or the Overture of 1812 is an overture written by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing Grande Armée at the Battle of...

, his First Piano Concerto
Piano Concerto No. 1 (Tchaikovsky)
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky between November 1874 and February 1875. It was revised in the summer of 1879 and again in December 1888. The first version received heavy criticism from Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky's desired pianist....

, his Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto (Tchaikovsky)
The Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1878, is one of the best known of all violin concertos. It is also considered to be among the most technically difficult works for violin.-Instrumentation:...

, his last three numbered symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin (opera)
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24, is an opera in 3 acts , by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto was written by Konstantin Shilovsky and the composer and his brother Modest, and is based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin....

.

Born into a middle-class family, Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant, despite his obvious musical precocity. He pursued a musical career against the wishes of his family, entering the Saint Petersburg Conservatory
Saint Petersburg Conservatory
The N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory is a music school in Saint Petersburg. In 2004, the conservatory had around 275 faculty members and 1,400 students.-History:...

 in 1862 and graduating in 1865. This formal, Western-oriented training set him apart from the contemporary nationalistic movement embodied by the influential group of young Russian composers known as The Five
The Five
The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie , refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin...

, with whom Tchaikovsky's professional relationship was mixed.

Although he enjoyed many popular successes, Tchaikovsky was never emotionally secure, and his life was punctuated by personal crises and periods of depression. Contributory factors were his suppressed homosexuality
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

 and fear of exposure, his disastrous marriage, and the sudden collapse of the one enduring relationship of his adult life, his 13-year association with the wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck
Nadezhda von Meck
Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck was a Russian businesswoman, who is best known today for her artistic relationship with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. She supported him financially for 13 years, enabling him to devote himself full-time to composition, but she stipulated that they were never to meet. ...

. Amid private turmoil Tchaikovsky's public reputation grew; he was honoured by the Tsar, awarded a lifetime pension and lauded in the concert halls of the world. His sudden death at the age of 53 is generally ascribed to cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

, but some attribute it to suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

.

Although perennially popular with concert audiences across the world, Tchaikovsky's music was often dismissed by American critics in the early and mid-20th century as being vulgar and lacking in elevated thought. By the end of the 20th century, however, Tchaikovsky's status as a significant composer was generally regarded as secure.

Childhood


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk
Votkinsk
Votkinsk is an industrial city in the Udmurt Republic, Russia. Population: It is the birthplace of the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky who spent the first eight years of his life here: today the house of his birth contains a museum dedicated to the composer.The town was established in April...

, a small town in present-day Udmurtia
Udmurtia
The Udmurt Republic , or Udmurtia is a federal subject of Russia . Its capital is the city of Izhevsk. Population: -History:...

, formerly province of Vyatka
Kirov Oblast
Kirov Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . Its administrative center is the city of Kirov. Population: -History:In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Vyatka remained a place of exile for opponents of the tsarist regime, including many prominent revolutionary figures.In 1920, a number of...

 in the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, to a family with a long line of military service. His father, Ilya Petrovich Tchaikovsky, was an engineer of Ukrainian
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

 descent who served as a lieutenant colonel in the Department of Mines and manager of the famed Kamsko-Votkinsk Ironworks. His grandfather, Petro Fedorovych Chaika, emigrated from Nikolaevka (near Poltava
Poltava
Poltava is a city in located on the Vorskla River in central Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Poltava Oblast , as well as the surrounding Poltava Raion of the oblast. Poltava's estimated population is 298,652 ....

), Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. The composer's mother, Alexandra Andreyevna née d'Assier, 18 years her husband's junior, was of French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

 ancestry on her father's side, and was the second of Ilya's three wives. Tchaikovsky had four brothers (Nikolai, Ippolit, and twins Anatoly and Modest
Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian dramatist, opera librettist and translator.-Early life:Modest Ilyich was born in Alapayevsk, the younger brother of the future composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. He graduated from the School of Jurisprudence with a degree in law...

), and a sister, Alexandra. He also had a half-sister Zinaida from his father's first marriage. Tchaikovsky was particularly close to Alexandra and the twins. Anatoly later established a prominent legal career, while Modest became a dramatist, librettist, and translator. Alexandra married Lev Davydov and had seven children, one of whom, "Bob"
Vladimir Davydov
Vladimir Davydov Vladimir Davydov Vladimir Davydov (December 14, 1871 (O.S. December 2) – December 27, 1906 (O.S, December 14) was the second son of Lev and Alexandra Davidov and the favorite nephew of the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who called him "Bob".-Life:...

, "[became] a central figure in the composer's final years". The Davydovs provided the only real family life Tchaikovsky knew as an adult, and their estate in Kamianka (now part of Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

) became a welcome refuge for him during his years of wandering.

In 1843, due to the growth in family responsibilities, Tchaikovsky's parents hired a French governess, Fanny Dürbach, a 22-year-old experienced teacher who, Modest later wrote, "knew both French and German equally well, and whose morals were strictly Protestant". While Dürbach had been hired to look after Tchaikovsky's elder brother Nikolai and a Tchaikovsky niece, it was not long before Tchaikovsky became curious about the young woman and, as biographer Anthony Holden
Anthony Holden
Anthony Holden is an English writer, broadcaster and critic, particularly known as a biographer of artists including Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky, Leigh Hunt, Lorenzo da Ponte and Laurence Olivier, and of members of the British Royal family, notably Charles, Prince of Wales...

 wrote, "wormed his way into Fanny Dürbach's affections, and thus into her classes". Dürbach's love and affection for her charge is said to have provided a counter to Tchaikovsky's mother, who is described by Holden as a cold, unhappy, distant parent not given to displays of physical affection. However, Tchaikovsky scholar Alexander Poznansky wrote that the mother doted on her son.

Tchaikovsky began piano lessons at the age of five. A precocious pupil, he could read music as adeptly as his teacher within three years. His parents were initially supportive of his musical talents, hiring a tutor, buying an orchestrion
Orchestrion
An orchestrion is a generic name for a machine that plays music and is designed to sound like an orchestra or band. Orchestrions may be operated by means of a large pinned cylinder or by a music roll and less commonly book music. The sound is usually produced by pipes, though they will be voiced...

 (a form of barrel organ that could imitate elaborate orchestral effects), and encouraging his study of the piano. However, his parents' passion for his musical talent soon cooled, and, in 1850, the family decided to send Tchaikovsky to the Imperial School of Jurisprudence
Imperial School of Jurisprudence
The Imperial School of Jurisprudence was, along with the Page Corps, the most prestigious school for noble boys in Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire....

 in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. The school mainly served the lesser nobility, and would prepare him for a career as a civil servant. As the minimum age for acceptance was 12, Tchaikovsky was required to spend two years boarding at the Imperial School of Jurisprudence's preparatory school, 800 miles (1,287.5 km) from his family. Once those two years had passed, Tchaikovsky transferred to the Imperial School of Jurisprudence to begin a seven-year course of studies.

Childhood trauma and school years



On June 25, 1854 Tchaikovsky suffered the shock of his mother's death from cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

. Tchaikovsky authority David Brown
David Brown (musicologist)
David Brown is an English musicologist, most noteworthy for his major study of Tchaikovsky’s life and works.Brown studied English, Latin and music at the University of Sheffield, graduating in 1951, and took his MusB there . During national service he studied Russian and was commissioned in the...

 calls it "the crucial event of [Tchaikovsky's] years at the School of Jurisprudence", and noted that "it was certainly shattering." Tchaikovsky bemoaned the loss of his mother for the rest of his life, and admitted that it had "a huge influence on the way things turned out for me." He was so affected that he was unable to inform Fanny Dürbach until two years after the fact. At the age of 40, approximately 26 years after his mother's death, Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck
Nadezhda von Meck
Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck was a Russian businesswoman, who is best known today for her artistic relationship with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. She supported him financially for 13 years, enabling him to devote himself full-time to composition, but she stipulated that they were never to meet. ...

, "Every moment of that appalling day is as vivid to me as though it were yesterday." However, within a month of his mother's death he was making his first serious efforts at composition, a waltz
Waltz
The waltz is a ballroom and folk dance in time, performed primarily in closed position.- History :There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance,- a waltz, from the 16th century including the representations of the printer H.S. Beheim...

 in her memory. Tchaikovsky's father, who also became sick with cholera at this time but made a full recovery, immediately sent the boy back to school in hope that the classwork would occupy his mind. To make up for his sense of isolation and to compensate for the loss in his family, Tchaikovsky formed important friendships with fellow students, such as those with Aleksey Apukhtin
Aleksey Apukhtin
-Biography:Following the traditions of amorous gypsy romance, he introduced into this genre much of his own artistic temperament. Many of his romances were set to music by his friend Pyotr Tchaikovsky and by other well-known composers .Apukhtin's reputation as a poet was further strengthened in...

 and Vladimir Gerard, which lasted the rest of his life.

Music was not considered a high priority at the School of Jurisprudence, but Tchaikovsky maintained a connection to music extracurricularly, by regularly attending the theater and the opera with other students. At this time, he was fond of works by Rossini, Bellini
Vincenzo Bellini
Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini was an Italian opera composer. His greatest works are I Capuleti ed i Montecchi , La sonnambula , Norma , Beatrice di Tenda , and I puritani...

, Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century...

 and Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

. He was known to sit at the school's harmonium
Harmonium
A harmonium is a free-standing keyboard instrument similar to a reed organ. Sound is produced by air being blown through sets of free reeds, resulting in a sound similar to that of an accordion...

 after choir practice and improvise on whatever themes had just been sung. "We were amused," Vladimir Gerard later remembered, "but not imbued with any expectations of his future glory." Piano manufacturer Franz Becker made occasional visits to the school as a token music teacher. This was the only formal music instruction Tchaikovsky received there. In 1855, Ilya Tchaikovsky funded private lessons with Rudolph Kündinger, a well-known piano teacher from Nuremberg
Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

. Ilya also questioned Kündinger about a musical career for his son. Kündinger replied that while he was impressed with Tchaikovsky's ability to improvise at the keyboard, nothing suggested a potential composer or even a fine performer. Tchaikovsky was told to finish his course and then try for a post in the Ministry of Justice.

Civil service; pursuing music



On June 10, 1859, at the age of 19, Tchaikovsky graduated from the School of Jurisprudence with the rank of titular counselor, a low rung on the civil service ladder. On June 15, he was appointed to the Ministry of Justice. Six months later he became a junior assistant and two months after that, a senior assistant, where he remained for the rest of his three-year civil service career.

In 1861, Tchaikovsky attended classes in music theory
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

 organized by the Russian Musical Society
Russian Musical Society
The Russian Musical Society was an organisation founded in 1859 by the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna and her protégé, pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein, with the intent of raising the standard of music in the country and disseminating musical education.Rubinstein and the Grand Duchess's...

 (RMS) and taught by Nikolai Zaremba
Nikolai Zaremba
Nikolai Ivanovich Zaremba was a Russian musical theorist and composer.Zaremba was born in the province of Vitebsk in 1821. He was one of the original professors at the St. Petersburg Conservatory when it was founded in 1862. In 1867, he succeeded Anton Rubinstein as the director of the...

. A year later he followed Zaremba to the new Saint Petersburg Conservatory
Saint Petersburg Conservatory
The N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory is a music school in Saint Petersburg. In 2004, the conservatory had around 275 faculty members and 1,400 students.-History:...

. Tchaikovsky decided not to give up his Ministry post "until I am quite certain that I am destined to be a musician rather than a civil servant." From 1862 to 1865 he studied harmony
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 and counterpoint
Counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

 with Zaremba, while Anton Rubinstein
Anton Rubinstein
Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein was a Russian-Jewish pianist, composer and conductor. As a pianist he was regarded as a rival of Franz Liszt, and he ranks amongst the great keyboard virtuosos...

, director and founder of the Conservatory, taught him instrumentation and composition. In 1863, Tchaikovsky abandoned his civil service career and began studying music full-time, graduating from the Conservatory in December 1865. Though Rubinstein was impressed by Tchaikovsky's musical talent, he and Zaremba later clashed with the young composer over his First Symphony
Symphony No. 1 (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Winter Daydreams , Op. 13, in 1866, just after he accepted a professorship at the Moscow Conservatory: it is the composer's earliest notable work. The composer's brother Modest claimed this work cost Tchaikovsky more labor and suffering...

, written after his graduation, when he submitted it to them for their perusal. The symphony was given its first complete performance in Moscow in February 1868, where it was well received.

Relationship with The Five


Rubinstein's Western musical orientation brought him into opposition with the nationalistic group of musicians known as The Five
The Five
The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie , refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin...

. As Tchaikovsky was Rubinstein's best-known pupil, he became a target for the group, especially for César Cui
César Cui
César Antonovich Cui was a Russian of French and Lithuanian descent. His profession was as an army officer and a teacher of fortifications; his avocational life has particular significance in the history of music, in that he was a composer and music critic; in this sideline he is known as a...

. Cui's criticisms began with a blistering review of a cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

 Tchaikovsky had written as his graduation exercise from the Conservatory. Calling the piece "feeble", Cui wrote that if Tchaikovsky had any gift for music, "then at least somewhere or other [the cantata] would have broken through the fetters of the Conservatoire". The effect of this review on Tchaikovsky was devastating: "My vision grew dark, my head spun, and I ran out of the café like a madman.... All day I wandered aimlessly through the city, repeating, 'I'm sterile, insignificant, nothing will come out of me, I'm ungifted'".

When in 1867, Rubinstein resigned as conductor from Saint Petersburg's Russian Musical Society
Russian Musical Society
The Russian Musical Society was an organisation founded in 1859 by the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna and her protégé, pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein, with the intent of raising the standard of music in the country and disseminating musical education.Rubinstein and the Grand Duchess's...

 orchestra, he was replaced by composer Mily Balakirev
Mily Balakirev
Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev ,Russia was still using old style dates in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates in the article are taken verbatim from the source and therefore are in the same style as the source...

, leader of The Five. Tchaikovsky, now Professor of Music Theory
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

 at the Moscow Conservatory
Moscow Conservatory
The Moscow Conservatory is a higher musical education institution in Moscow, and the second oldest conservatory in Russia after St. Petersburg Conservatory. Along with the St...

, had already promised his Dances of the Hay Maidens (which he later included in his opera The Voyevoda, as Characteristic Dances) to the society. In submitting the manuscript (and perhaps mindful of Cui's review of the graduation cantata), Tchaikovsky included a note to Balakirev that ended with a request for a word of encouragement should the Dances not be performed. Possibly sensing a new disciple in Tchaikovsky, Balakirev wrote "with complete frankness" in his reply that he felt that Tchaikovsky was "a fully fledged artist". These letters set the tone for Tchaikovsky's relationship with Balakirev over the next two years. In 1869, the two entered into a working relationship, the result being Tchaikovsky's first recognised masterpiece, the fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet (Tchaikovsky)
Romeo and Juliet is an orchestral work composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It is styled an Overture-Fantasy, and is based on Shakespeare's play of the same name. Like other composers such as Berlioz and Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky was deeply inspired by Shakespeare and wrote works based on The...

, a work which The Five wholeheartedly embraced.

Though, personally, Tchaikovsky remained on friendly terms with most of The Five, professionally, he was usually ambivalent about their music. Despite the collaboration with Balakirev on the Romeo and Juliet fantasy-overture, Tchaikovsky made considerable efforts to ensure his musical independence from the group as well as from the conservative faction at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.

Mature composer



From 1867 to 1878, Tchaikovsky combined his professorial duties with music criticism
Music journalism
Music journalism is criticism and reportage about music. It began in the eighteenth century as comment on what is now thought of as 'classical music'. This aspect of music journalism, today often referred to as music criticism , comprises the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of...

 while continuing to compose. Some of his best-known works from this period include the First Piano Concerto
Piano Concerto No. 1 (Tchaikovsky)
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky between November 1874 and February 1875. It was revised in the summer of 1879 and again in December 1888. The first version received heavy criticism from Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky's desired pianist....

, the Variations on a Rococo Theme
Variations on a Rococo Theme
The Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33, for cello and orchestra was the closest Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ever came to writing a full concerto for cello and orchestra. The style was inspired by Mozart, Tchaikovsky's role model, and makes it clear that Tchaikovsky admired the Classical style very...

for cello
Cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

 and orchestra, the Second
Symphony No. 2 (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed his Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 in 1872. One of Tchaikovsky's very joyous compositions, it was successful upon its premiere; it also won the favor of the group of nationalistic Russian composers known as "The Five", led by Mily Balakirev...

 and Fourth Symphonies
Symphony No. 4 (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, was written between 1877 and 1878. The symphony's first performance was at a Russian Musical Society concert in Saint Petersburg on February 10 /February 22 1878, with Nikolai Rubinstein as conductor.- Form :The symphony is in four...

, the ballet Swan Lake
Swan Lake
Swan Lake ballet, op. 20, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, composed 1875–1876. The scenario, initially in four acts, was fashioned from Russian folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse. The choreographer of the original production was Julius Reisinger...

and the opera Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin (opera)
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24, is an opera in 3 acts , by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto was written by Konstantin Shilovsky and the composer and his brother Modest, and is based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin....

. The First Piano Concerto suffered an initial rejection by its intended dedicatee, Anton Rubinstein's brother Nikolai, though he eventually championed the work. The work was subsequently premiered in Boston in October 1875, played by Hans von Bülow
Hans von Bülow
Hans Guido Freiherr von Bülow was a German conductor, virtuoso pianist, and composer of the Romantic era. He was one of the most famous conductors of the 19th century, and his activity was critical for establishing the successes of several major composers of the time, including Richard...

, whose pianism had impressed Tchaikovsky during an appearance in Moscow in March 1874.

In Moscow, teaching with Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky gained his first taste of famed appreciation. Introduced into the Artistic Circle, a club founded by Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky enjoyed a sense of social celebrity status among friends and fellow artists. However, over a five-year period, Tchaikovsky became frustrated with teaching and found himself struggling financially. He gradually moved away from Rubinstein, to maintain his independence from Rubinstein's renowned reputation. Nevertheless, while the move to Moscow was bittersweet, filled with friendship, jealousy, and inner struggles, it was successful from a professional point of view. Tchaikovsky's musical works were performed frequently, with few delays between their composition and first performances, and the publication (after 1867) of songs and piano music for the home market helped bolster the composer's popularity.

Sexuality


In his book, Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man, Poznansky showed that Tchaikovsky had homosexual tendencies and that some of the composer's closest relationships were with persons of the same sex. More controversial than Tchaikovsky's reported sexual proclivities is how comfortable the composer felt with his sexual nature. After reading all Tchaikovsky's letters (including unpublished ones), Poznansky concludes that the composer "eventually came to see his sexual peculiarities as an insurmountable and even natural part of his personality ... without experiencing any serious psychological damage." Relevant portions of his brother Modest's autobiography, where he tells of his brother's sexual orientation, have also been published. Modest, like Pyotr, was homosexual. Some letters previously suppressed by Soviet censors, where Tchaikovsky openly speaks out about his homosexuality, have been published in Russian, as well as by Poznansky in English translation. In one of these entirely disclosed letters, it can be read:
Musicologist and historian Roland John Wiley suggests another alternative, based on Tchaikovsky's letters. He suggests that while Tchaikovsky experienced "no unbearable guilt" over his homosexuality, he remained aware of the negative consequences of that knowledge becoming public, especially of the ramifications for his family. His decision to enter into a heterosexual union and try to lead a double life was prompted by several factors—the possibility of exposure, the willingness to please his father, his own desire for a permanent home and his love of children and family. He sought out the company of homosexuals in his circle for extended periods, "associating openly and establishing professional connections with them." Wiley adds, "Amateurish criticism to the contrary, there is no warrant to assume, this period [of his short-lived marriage] excepted, that Tchaikovsky's sexuality ever deeply impaired his inspiration, or made his music idiosyncratically confessional or incapable of philosophical utterance." Professor Robert Greenberg
Robert Greenberg
Robert M. Greenberg , is an American composer, pianist, and musicologist who was born in Brooklyn, NY. He has composed more than 45 works for a variety of instruments and voices, and has recorded a number of lecture series on music history and music appreciation for The Teaching...

 of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music agrees, describing his turn towards a troubled inner world in which he, “found a world of self-expression that he might never have discovered had he felt less alienated from society.”

Unsuccessful marriage


In 1868, at the age of 28, Tchaikovsky met the Belgian soprano Désirée Artôt
Désirée Artôt
Désirée Artôt was a Belgian soprano , who was famed in German and Italian opera and sang mainly in Germany...

, then on a tour of Russia. They became infatuated, and were engaged to be married. He dedicated his Romance in F minor for piano, Op. 5, to her. However, on September 15, 1869, without any communication with Tchaikovsky, Artôt married a member of her company, the Spanish baritone Mariano Padilla y Ramos
Mariano Padilla y Ramos
Mariano Padilla y Ramos was a Spanish operatic baritone who excelled in the title role of Mozart's Don Giovanni.- Life :...

. The general view has been that Tchaikovsky got over the affair fairly quickly. It has, however, been postulated that he coded her name into the Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor
Piano Concerto No. 1 (Tchaikovsky)
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky between November 1874 and February 1875. It was revised in the summer of 1879 and again in December 1888. The first version received heavy criticism from Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky's desired pianist....

 and the tone-poem Fatum
Fatum (Tchaikovsky)
Fatum, Op. 77, is a symphonic poem by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It was written in 1868 and performed in 1869, but Tchaikovsky later destroyed the score, and it was published only three years after his death, with a posthumous opus number.-History:...

. They met on a handful of later occasions, and in October 1888 he wrote Six French Songs, Op. 65, for her, in response to her request for a single song. Tchaikovsky later claimed she was the only woman he ever loved.

In April 1877 Tchaikovsky's favorite pupil, Vladimir Shilovsky, married suddenly.Poznansky also asserts that Shilovsky was homosexual, and that he and Tchaikovsky had shared a mutual bond of affection for just over a decade. (Poznansky, Quest 95, 126). Shilovsky's wedding may in turn have spurred Tchaikovsky to consider such a step himself. He declared his intention to marry in a letter to his brother. There followed Tchaikovsky's ill-starred marriage to one of his former composition students, Antonina Miliukova
Antonina Miliukova
Antonina Ivanovna Miliukova was the wife, and after 1893, the widow, of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.After marriage she was known as Antonina Tchaikovskaya.- Early years :...

. The brief time with his wife drove him to an emotional crisis, which was followed by a stay in Clarens, Switzerland
Clarens, Switzerland
Clarens is a small village in the municipality of Montreux, in the canton of Vaud, in Switzerland.Whilst in Clarens, the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky wrote his ballets The Rite of Spring and Pulcinella and in March 1878, Tchaikovsky wrote his Violin Concerto.Paul Kruger, hero of South African...

, for rest and recovery. They remained legally married but never lived together again nor had any children, though she later gave birth to three children by another man.

Tchaikovsky's marital debacle may have forced him to face the full truth concerning his sexuality. He apparently never again considered matrimony as a camouflage or escape, nor considered himself capable of loving women in the same manner as other men. He wrote to his brother Anatoly from Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 on February 19, 1878,

Thanks to the regularity of my life, to the sometimes tedious but always inviolable calm, and above all, thanks to time which heals all wounds, I have completely recovered from my insanity. There's no doubt that for some months on end I was a bit insane, and only now, when I'm completely recovered, have I learned to relate objectively to everything which I did during my brief insanity. That man who in May took it into his head to marry Antonina Ivanova, who during June wrote a whole opera as though nothing had happened, who in July married, who in September fled from his wife, who in November railed at Rome and so on—that man wasn't I, but another Pyotr Ilyich.


A few days later, in another letter to Anatoly, he added that there was "nothing more futile than wanting to be anything other than what I am by nature."

Creative genius and emotional turmoil


It has been commonly held that the strain of the marriage and Tchaikovsky's emotional state immediately preceding it may have enhanced Tchaikovsky's creativity. To some extent, this may have been the case. While the Fourth Symphony
Symphony No. 4 (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, was written between 1877 and 1878. The symphony's first performance was at a Russian Musical Society concert in Saint Petersburg on February 10 /February 22 1878, with Nikolai Rubinstein as conductor.- Form :The symphony is in four...

 was begun some months before Tchaikovsky married Antonina, both the symphony and the opera Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin (opera)
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24, is an opera in 3 acts , by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto was written by Konstantin Shilovsky and the composer and his brother Modest, and is based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin....

, arguably two of his finest compositions, are held up as proof of this enhanced creativity. He finished both these works in the six months between his engagement and the completion of the rest cure following his marriage breakdown. While in Clarens he also composed his Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto (Tchaikovsky)
The Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1878, is one of the best known of all violin concertos. It is also considered to be among the most technically difficult works for violin.-Instrumentation:...

, with the technical assistance of one of his former students (and possibly his lover), violinist Iosif Kotek
Iosif Kotek
Iosif Iosifovich Kotek was a Russian violinist remembered for his association with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. He assisted Tchaikovsky with technical issues in the writing of the solo part in his Violin Concerto in D...

. Kotek had earlier helped establish contact between Tchaikovsky and Nadezhda von Meck, the widow of a railway magnate, who became the composer's patron and confidante.

Like the First Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto was rejected initially by its intended dedicatee, virtuoso and pedagogue Leopold Auer
Leopold Auer
Leopold Auer was a Hungarian violinist, teacher, conductor and composer.-Early life and career:...

, and was premiered by Adolph Brodsky
Adolph Brodsky
Adolph Davidovich Brodsky was a Russian violinist.He enjoyed a long and illustrious career as a performer and teacher, starting early in Vienna, going on to Moscow, Leipzig, and New York City and finally Manchester. During its course he met and worked with composers such as Tchaikovsky and...

. While the work eventually achieved public success, the audience hissed at its premiere in Vienna, and it was denigrated by music critic Eduard Hanslick
Eduard Hanslick
Eduard Hanslick was a Bohemian-Austrian music critic.-Biography:Hanslick was born in Prague, the son of Joseph Adolph Hanslick, a bibliographer and music teacher from a German-speaking family, and one of his piano pupils, the daughter of a Jewish merchant from Vienna...

:

"The Russian composer Tchaikovsky is surely no ordinary talent, but rather, an inflated one, obsessed with posturing as a man of genius, and lacking all discrimination and taste ... the same can be said for his new, long, and ambitious Violin Concerto. For a while it proceeds soberly, musically, and not mindlessly, but soon vulgarity gains the upper hand and dominates until the end of the first movement. The violin is no longer played: it is tugged about, torn, beaten black and blue ... The Adagio is well on the way to reconciling us and winning us over when, all too soon, it breaks off to make way for a finale that transports us to the brutal and wretched jollity of a Russian church festival. We see a host of gross and savage faces, hear crude curses, and smell the booze. In the course of a discussion of obscener illustrations, Friedrich Vischer
Friedrich Theodor Vischer
Friedrich Theodor Vischer was a German writer on the philosophy of art.Born at Ludwigsburg as the son of a clergyman, Vischer was educated at Tübinger Stift, and began life in his father's profession...

 once maintained that there were pictures whose stink one could see. Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto confronts us for the first time with the hideous idea that there may be musical compositions whose stink one can hear."


Auer belatedly accepted the concerto, and eventually played it to great public success. In future years he taught the work to his pupils, including Jascha Heifetz
Jascha Heifetz
Jascha Heifetz was a violinist, born in Vilnius, then Russian Empire, now Lithuania. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time.- Early life :...

 and Nathan Milstein
Nathan Milstein
Nathan Mironovich Milstein was a Russian-born American virtuoso violinist.Widely considered one of the finest violinists of the 20th century, Milstein was known for his interpretations of Bach's solo violin works and for works from the Romantic period...

. Auer later said that Hanslick's comment that " 'the last movement was redolent of vodka' [...] did credit neither to [Hanslick's] good judgment nor to his reputation as a critic."

The intensity of personal emotion now flowing through Tchaikovsky's works was entirely new to Russian music. It prompted some Russian commentators to place his name alongside that of novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Like Dostoyevsky's characters, they felt the musical hero in Tchaikovsky's music persisted in exploring the meaning of life while trapped in a fatal love-death-faith triangle. The critic Osoovski wrote of Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky: "With a hidden passion they both stop at moments of horror, total spiritual collapse, and finding acute sweetness in the cold trepidation of the heart before the abyss, they both force the reader to experience those feelings, too."

Tchaikovsky's fame among concert audiences began to expand outside Russia, and continued to grow within it. Hans von Bülow had become a fervent champion of the composer's work after hearing some of it in a Moscow concert during Lent of 1874. In a German newspaper later that year, he praised the First String Quartet
String Quartet No. 1 (Tchaikovsky)
String Quartet No. 1 in D major was the first of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's three string quartets, and his Opus 11.The quartet has 4 movements:# Moderato e semplice # Andante cantabile...

, Romeo and Juliet and other works, and he later took up many other Tchaikovsky works both as pianist and conductor. In France, Camille Benoit began introducing Tchaikovsky's music to readers of the Revue et gazette musicale de Paris. The music also received significant exposure during the 1878 International Exhibition in Paris. While Tchaikovsky's reputation as a composer grew, a corresponding increase in performances of his works did not occur until he began conducting them himself, starting in the mid-1880s. Nevertheless, by 1880, all of the operas Tchaikovsky had completed up that point had been staged, and his orchestral works had been given performances that had been sympathetically received.

Nadezhda von Meck



Nadezhda von Meck was the wealthy widow of a Russian railway tycoon and an influential patron of the arts. Having already heard some of Tchaikovsky's work, she was encouraged by Iosif Kotek
Iosif Kotek
Iosif Iosifovich Kotek was a Russian violinist remembered for his association with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. He assisted Tchaikovsky with technical issues in the writing of the solo part in his Violin Concerto in D...

 to commission some chamber pieces from him. Her support became an important element in Tchaikovsky's life; she eventually paid him an annual subsidy of 6,000 rubles
Russian ruble
The ruble or rouble is the currency of the Russian Federation and the two partially recognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Formerly, the ruble was also the currency of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union prior to their breakups. Belarus and Transnistria also use currencies with...

, which made it possible for him to resign from the Moscow Conservatory in October 1878 at the age of 38, and concentrate on composition. With von Meck's patronage came a relationship that, at her insistence, was mainly epistolary – she stipulated they were never to meet face to face. They exchanged well over 1,000 letters between 1877 and 1890. In these letters Tchaikovsky was more open about much of his life and his creative processes than he had been to any other person.

As well as being a dedicated supporter of Tchaikovsky's musical works, Nadezhda von Meck became a vital enabler in his day-to-day existence by her financial support and friendship. As he explained to her,

There is something so special about our relationship that it often stops me in my tracks with amazement. I have told you more than once, I believe, that you have come to seem to me the hand of Fate itself, watching over me and protecting me. The very fact that I do not know you personally, while feeling so close to you, accords you in my eyes the special status of an unseen but benevolent presence, like a benign Providence.


In 1884, Tchaikovsky and von Meck became related by marriage when one of her sons, Nikolay, married Tchaikovsky's niece Anna Davydova. However, in 1890 she suddenly ended her relationship with the composer. She was suffering from health problems that made writing difficult; there were family pressures, and also financial difficulties arising from the mismanagement of her estate by her son Vladimir. The break with Tchaikovsky was announced in a letter delivered by a trusted servant, rather than by the usual postal service. It contained a request that he not forget her, and was accompanied by a year's subsidy in advance. She claimed bankruptcy, which, if not literally true, was evidently a real threat at the time.

Tchaikovsky may have been aware for nearly a year of his patroness's financial difficulties. This did not stop him from continuing to take his allowance for granted (with regular protestations of his eternal gratitude), nor did he offer to return the advance he received with the farewell letter. Despite his growing celebrity throughout Europe, von Meck's allowance still made up a third of the composer's income. While he may have no longer needed her money as much as in the past, the loss of her friendship and encouragement was devastating; he remained bewildered and resentful about her abrupt disappearance for the remaining three years of his life.

Years of wandering


Tchaikovsky returned to Moscow Conservatory in the autumn of 1879, having been away from Russia for a year after the disintegration of his marriage. However, he quickly resigned, settling in Kamenka yet traveling incessantly. During these years, assured of a regular income from Nadezhda von Meck, he wandered around Europe and rural Russia, never staying long in any one place and living mainly alone, avoiding social contact whenever possible. This may have been due in part to troubles with Antonina, who alternately agreed to, then refused, divorce, at one point exacerbating matters by moving into an apartment directly above her husband's. Tchaikovsky listed Antonina's accusations to him in detail to Modest: "I am a deceiver who married her in order to hide my true nature ... I insulted her every day, her sufferings at my hands were great ... she is appalled by my shameful vice, etc., etc." It is possible that he lived the rest of his life in dread of Antonina's power to expose publicly his sexual leanings. These factors may explain why, except for the piano trio
Piano Trio (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50, was written in Rome between December 1881 and late January 1882. It is subtitled In memory of a great artist, in reference to Nikolai Rubinstein, his close friend and mentor, who had died on 23 March 1881...

 which he wrote upon the death of Nikolai Rubinstein, his best work from this period is found in genres which did not depend heavily on personal expression.

While Tchaikovsky's reputation grew rapidly outside Russia, it was, as Alexandre Benois
Alexandre Benois
Alexandre Nikolayevich Benois , an influential artist, art critic, historian, preservationist, and founding member of Mir iskusstva , an art movement and magazine...

 wrote in his memoirs, "considered obligatory [in progressive musical circles in Russia] to treat Tchaikovsky as a renegade, a master overly dependent on the West." In 1880 this assessment changed, practically overnight. During commemoration ceremonies for the Pushkin Monument in Moscow, Dostoyevsky charged that Alexander Pushkin had given a prophetic call to Russia for "universal unity" with the West. An unprecedented acclaim for Dostoyevsky's message spread throughout Russia, and disdain for Tchaikovsky's music dissipated. He even drew a cult following among the young intelligentsia
Intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

 of St. Petersburg, including Benois, Léon Bakst
Léon Bakst
Léon Samoilovitch Bakst was a Russian painter and scene- and costume designer. He was a member of the Sergei Diaghilev circle and the Ballets Russes, for which he designed exotic, richly coloured sets and costumes...

 and Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

.
In 1880 the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Moscow)
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a Church in Moscow, Russia, on the northern bank of the Moskva River, a few blocks south-west of the Kremlin...

, commissioned by Tsar Alexander I
Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia , served as Emperor of Russia from 23 March 1801 to 1 December 1825 and the first Russian King of Poland from 1815 to 1825. He was also the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland and Lithuania....

 to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon in 1812, was nearing completion in Moscow; the 25th anniversary of the coronation of Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

 in 1881 was imminent;Celebration of this anniversary did not take place as Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. and the 1882 Moscow Arts and Industry Exhibition was in the planning stage. Nikolai Rubinstein suggested a grand commemorative piece for use in related festivities. Tchaikovsky began the project in October 1880, finishing it within six weeks. He wrote to Nadezhda von Meck that the resulting work, the 1812 Overture
1812 Overture
The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49, popularly known as the 1812 Overture or the Overture of 1812 is an overture written by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing Grande Armée at the Battle of...

, would be "very loud and noisy, but I wrote it with no warm feeling of love, and therefore there will probably be no artistic merits in it." He also warned conductor Eduard Nápravník
Eduard Nápravník
Eduard Francevič Nápravník was a Czech conductor and composer, who settled in Russia and is best known for his leading role in Russian musical life as the principal conductor of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg for many decades...

 that "I shan't be at all surprised and offended if you find that it is in a style unsuitable for symphony concerts." Nevertheless, this work has become for many, as Tchaikovsky authority Professor David Brown
David Brown (musicologist)
David Brown is an English musicologist, most noteworthy for his major study of Tchaikovsky’s life and works.Brown studied English, Latin and music at the University of Sheffield, graduating in 1951, and took his MusB there . During national service he studied Russian and was commissioned in the...

 phrased it, "the piece by Tchaikovsky they know best."

On March 23, 1881, Nikolai Rubinstein died in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. Tchaikovsky was holidaying in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, and he went immediately to attend the funeral in Paris for his greatly respected mentor, but arrived too late (although he was part of a group of people who saw Rubinstein's coffin off on a train back to Russia). In December, he started work on his Piano Trio in A minor
Piano Trio (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50, was written in Rome between December 1881 and late January 1882. It is subtitled In memory of a great artist, in reference to Nikolai Rubinstein, his close friend and mentor, who had died on 23 March 1881...

, "dedicated to the memory of a great artist." The trio was first performed privately at the Moscow Conservatory, where Rubinstein had been director, on the first anniversary of his death by three of its staff—pianist Sergei Taneyev
Sergei Taneyev
Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev , was a Russian composer, pianist, teacher of composition, music theorist and author.-Life:...

, violinist Jan Hřímalý
Jan Hřímalý
Jan Hřímalý Jan Hřímalý Jan Hřímalý (also seen as Ivan Voitsekhovich Grzhimali (Иван Войцехович Гржимали (13 April 1844 – 11/24 January 1915) was an influential Czech violinist and teacher, who was associated with the Moscow Conservatory for 46 years 1869-1915....

 and cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen
Wilhelm Fitzenhagen
Wilhelm Karl Friedrich Fitzenhagen , was a German cellist, composer and instructor, best known today as the dedicatee of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme.-Life:...

. The piece became extremely popular during the composer's lifetime and, in an ironic twist of fate, became Tchaikovsky's own elegy
Elegy
In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.-History:The Greek term elegeia originally referred to any verse written in elegiac couplets and covering a wide range of subject matter, including epitaphs for tombs...

 when played at memorial concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg in November 1893.

Return to Russia


During 1884, now 44 years old, Tchaikovsky began to shed his unsociability and restlessness. In March of that year Tsar
Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 Alexander III
Alexander III of Russia
Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov , historically remembered as Alexander III or Alexander the Peacemaker reigned as Emperor of Russia from until his death on .-Disposition:...

 conferred upon him the Order of St. Vladimir
Order of St. Vladimir
The Cross of Saint Vladimir was an Imperial Russian Order established in 1782 by Empress Catherine II in memory of the deeds of Saint Vladimir, the Grand Prince and the Baptizer of the Kievan Rus....

 (fourth class), which carried with it hereditary nobility
Russian nobility
The Russian nobility arose in the 14th century and essentially governed Russia until the October Revolution of 1917.The Russian word for nobility, Dvoryanstvo , derives from the Russian word dvor , meaning the Court of a prince or duke and later, of the tsar. A nobleman is called dvoryanin...

 and won Tchaikovsky a personal audience with the Tsar. The Tsar's decoration was a visible seal of official approval, that helped Tchaikovsky's social rehabilitation. This rehabilitation may have been cemented in the composer's mind with the extreme success of his Orchestral Suite No. 3
Orchestral Suite No. 3 (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed his Orchestral Suite No. 3 in G, Op. 55 in 1884, writing it concurrently with his Concert Fantasia in G, Op. 56, for piano and orchestra. Its first performance was in St. Petersburg on January 24, 1885, under the direction of Hans von Bülow...

 at its January 1885 premiere in Saint Petersburg, under Hans von Bülow
Hans von Bülow
Hans Guido Freiherr von Bülow was a German conductor, virtuoso pianist, and composer of the Romantic era. He was one of the most famous conductors of the 19th century, and his activity was critical for establishing the successes of several major composers of the time, including Richard...

's direction. Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "I have never seen such a triumph. I saw the whole audience was moved, and grateful to me. These moments are the finest adornments of an artist's life. Thanks to these it is worth living and laboring." The press was likewise unanimously favorable.
In 1885, after Tchaikovsky resettled in Russia, the Tsar asked personally for a new production of Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin (opera)
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24, is an opera in 3 acts , by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto was written by Konstantin Shilovsky and the composer and his brother Modest, and is based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin....

to be staged in Saint Petersburg. The opera had previously been seen only in Moscow, produced by a student ensemble from the Conservatory. Though critical reception to the Saint Petersburg production of Onegin was negative, the opera drew full houses every night; 15 years later the composer's brother Modest identified this as the moment Tchaikovsky became known and appreciated by the masses, and he achieved the greatest degree of popularity ever accorded to a Russian composer. News of the opera's success spread, and the work was produced by opera houses throughout Russia and abroad.

A feature of the Saint Petersburg production of Onegin was that Alexander III requested that the opera be staged not at the Mariyinsky Theater
Mariinsky Theatre
The Mariinsky Theatre is a historic theatre of opera and ballet in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Opened in 1860, it became the preeminent music theatre of late 19th century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres. The...

 but at the Bolshoi Kamennïy Theater
Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre
The Saint Petersburg Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre was a theatre in Saint Petersburg.- History :It was built in 1783 to Antonio Rinaldi's Neoclassical design as the Kamenny Theatre. It was rebuilt in 1802 and renamed the Bolshoi, but burned down in 1811. The building was restored in 1818, and...

. This served notice that Tchaikovsky's music was replacing Italian opera
Italian opera
Italian opera is both the art of opera in Italy and opera in the Italian language. Opera was born in Italy around the year 1600 and Italian opera has continued to play a dominant role in the history of the form until the present day. Many famous operas in Italian were written by foreign composers,...

 as the official imperial art. In addition, thanks to Ivan Vsevolozhsky
Ivan Vsevolozhsky
Ivan Alexandrovich Vsevolozhsky was the Director of the Imperial Theatres in Russia from 1881 to 1898.A competent administrator, Vsevolozhsky ran the Imperial Theatres with a determination for excellence...

, Director of the Imperial Theaters and a patron of the composer, Tchaikovsky was awarded a lifetime pension of 3,000 rubles per year from the Tsar. This essentially made him the premier court composer, in practice if not in actual title.

While he still felt a disdain for public life, Tchaikovsky now participated in it for two reasons—his increasing celebrity and what he felt was his duty to promote Russian music. To this end, he helped support his former pupil Taneyev, who was now director of Moscow Conservatory, by attending student examinations and negotiating the sometimes sensitive relations among various members of the staff. Tchaikovsky also served as director of the Moscow branch of the Russian Musical Society during the 1889-1890 season. In this post, he invited a number of international celebrities to conduct, including Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

, Antonín Dvořák
Antonín Dvorák
Antonín Leopold Dvořák was a Czech composer of late Romantic music, who employed the idioms of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. Dvořák’s own style is sometimes called "romantic-classicist synthesis". His works include symphonic, choral and chamber music, concerti, operas and many...

 and Jules Massenet
Jules Massenet
Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet was a French composer best known for his operas. His compositions were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he ranks as one of the greatest melodists of his era. Soon after his death, Massenet's style went out of fashion, and many of his operas...

, although not all of them accepted his invitation.

Another area in which Tchaikovsky promoted Russian music in general as well as his own compositions was as a guest conductor. In January 1887 he substituted at the Bolshoi Theater
Bolshoi Theatre
The Bolshoi Theatre is a historic theatre in Moscow, Russia, designed by architect Joseph Bové, which holds performances of ballet and opera. The Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera are amongst the oldest and most renowned ballet and opera companies in the world...

 in Moscow on short notice for the first three performances of his opera Cherevichki
Cherevichki
Cherevichki [alternative renderings are The Little Shoes, The Tsarina's Slippers, Les caprices d'Oxane, and Gli stivaletti] is a comic-fantastic opera in 4 acts, 8 scenes, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It was composed in 1885 in Maidanovo, Russia...

. He had wanted to conquer conducting for at least a decade, as he saw that success outside Russia depended to some extent on his conducting his own works. Within a year of the Cherevichki performances, Tchaikovsky was in considerable demand throughout Europe and Russia, which helped him overcome life-long stage fright
Glossophobia
Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking. The word glossophobia comes from the Greek glōssa, meaning tongue, and φόβος phobos, fear or dread...

 and boosted his self-assurance. Conducting brought him to America in 1891, where he led the New York Music Society's
New York Symphony Orchestra
The New York Symphony Orchestra was founded as the New York Symphony Society in New York City by Leopold Damrosch in 1878. For many years it was a fierce rival to the older Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York. It was supported by Andrew Carnegie who built Carnegie Hall expressly for the...

 orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

 in his Festival Coronation March at the inaugural concert of New York's
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

.

In 1888 Tchaikovsky led the premiere of his Fifth Symphony
Symphony No. 5 (Tchaikovsky)
The Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was composed between May and August 1888 and was first performed in St Petersburg at the Hall of Nobility on November 6 of that year with Tchaikovsky conducting. It is dedicated to Theodore Avé-Lallemant.-Structure:A typical...

 in Saint Petersburg, repeating the work a week later with the first performance of his tone poem Hamlet
Hamlet (Tchaikovsky)
Hamlet provided material for two works by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, his fantasy overture after Shakespeare Hamlet, Op. 67a, and the incidental music he composed for Shakespeare's Hamlet, Op. 67b.-Overture-Fantasia, Op. 67a:...

. While both works were received with extreme enthusiasm by audiences, critics proved hostile, with César Cui
César Cui
César Antonovich Cui was a Russian of French and Lithuanian descent. His profession was as an army officer and a teacher of fortifications; his avocational life has particular significance in the history of music, in that he was a composer and music critic; in this sideline he is known as a...

 calling the symphony "routine" and "meretricious." Undeterred, Tchaikovsky continued to conduct the symphony in Russia and Europe.

Belyayev circle


In November 1887, Tchaikovsky arrived in Saint Petersburg in time to hear several of the Russian Symphony Concerts
Russian Symphony Concerts
The Russian Symphony Concerts were a series of Russian classical music concerts hosted by timber magnate and musical philanthropist Mitrofan Belyayev in St. Petersburg as a forum for young Russian composers to have their orchestral works performed...

, which were devoted exclusively to the music of Russian composers. One of these concerts included the first complete performance of the final version of his First Symphony
Symphony No. 1 (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Winter Daydreams , Op. 13, in 1866, just after he accepted a professorship at the Moscow Conservatory: it is the composer's earliest notable work. The composer's brother Modest claimed this work cost Tchaikovsky more labor and suffering...

; another featured the premiere of the revised version of Rimsky-Korsakov's Third Symphony. Before this visit Tchaikovsky had spent much time keeping in touch with Rimsky-Korsakov and those around him. Rimsky-Korsakov, along with Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher and conductor...

, Anatoly Lyadov and several other nationalistically minded composers and musicians, had formed a group called the Belyayev circle
Belyayev circle
The Belyayev circle was a society of Russian musicians who met in St. Petersburg, Russia between 1885 and 1908, and whose members included Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Glazunov, Vladimir Stasov, Anatoly Lyadov, Alexander Ossovsky, Witold Maliszewski, Nikolai Tcherepnin, Nikolay Sokolov among...

. This group was named after timber
Lumber
Lumber or timber is wood in any of its stages from felling through readiness for use as structural material for construction, or wood pulp for paper production....

 merchant Mitrofan Belyayev
Mitrofan Belyayev
Mitrofan Petrovich Belyayev was a Russian music publisher, outstanding philanthropist, and the owner of a large wood dealership enterprise in Russia. He was also the founder of the Belyayev circle, a society of musicians in Russia whose members included Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Glazunov...

, an amateur musician who became an influential music patron and publisher after he had taken an interest in Glazunov's work. (Belyayev also funded the Russian Symphony Concerts as a forum for native composers to have their works heard in public.) During Tchaikovsky's visit, he spent much time in the company of Glazunov, Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov, and the somewhat fraught relationship he had endured with the Belyayev circle's predecessor, The Five, melded into something more harmonious. This relationship lasted until Tchaikovsky's death in late 1893.

A side benefit of Tchaikovsky's friendship with Glazunov, Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov was an increased confidence in his own abilities as a composer, along with a willingness to let his musical works stand alongside those of his contemporaries. Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck in January 1889, after being once again well-represented in Belyayev's concerts, that he had "always tried to place myself outside all parties and to show in every way possible that I love and respect every honorable and gifted public figure in music, whatever his tendency", and that he considered himself "flattered to appear on the concert platform" beside composers in the Belyayev circle. This was an acknowledgment of wholehearted readiness for his music to be heard with that of these composers, delivered in a tone of implicit confidence that there were no comparisons from which to fear.

In 1892, Tchaikovsky was voted a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts
Académie des beaux-arts
The Académie des Beaux-Arts is a French learned society. It is one of the five academies of the Institut de France.It was created in 1795 as the merger of the:* Académie de peinture et de sculpture...

 in France; he was only the second Russian, after the sculptor Mark Antokolski
Mark Antokolski
Mark Matveyevich Antokolski was a Russian sculptor who was admired for psychological complexity of his historical images and panned for occasional lapses into sentimentalism.-Biography:...

, to be so honored. The following year, the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 in Britain awarded Tchaikovsky an honorary Doctor of Music
Doctor of Music
The Doctor of Music degree , like other doctorates, is an academic degree of the highest level. The D.Mus. is intended for musicians and composers who wish to combine the highest attainments in their area of specialization with doctoral-level academic study in music...

 degree.

Death


Tchaikovsky died in Saint Petersburg on November 6, 1893, nine days after the premiere of his Sixth Symphony
Symphony No. 6 (Tchaikovsky)
The Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, Pathétique is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's final completed symphony, written between February and the end of August 1893. The composer led the first performance in Saint Petersburg on 16/28 October of that year, nine days before his death...

, the Pathétique. Though only 53 years old, he lived a long life compared to many Russian 19th century composers. He was interred in Tikhvin Cemetery
Tikhvin Cemetery
Tikhvin Cemetery is located at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.Established in 1823, some of the notables buried here are:* Mily Balakirev - , composer* Alexander Borodin - , composer...

 at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, near the graves of fellow-composers Alexander Borodin
Alexander Borodin
Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin was a Russian Romantic composer and chemist of Georgian–Russian parentage. He was a member of the group of composers called The Five , who were dedicated to producing a specifically Russian kind of art music...

, Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka , was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music...

, and Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was a Russian composer, one of the group known as 'The Five'. He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period...

; later, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five.The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie, refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César...

 and Mily Balakirev
Mily Balakirev
Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev ,Russia was still using old style dates in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates in the article are taken verbatim from the source and therefore are in the same style as the source...

 were also buried nearby. Because of the Pathétique's formal innovation and the overwhelming emotional content of its outer movements, the work was received by the public with silent incomprehension at its first performance. The second performance, led by Nápravník, took place 20 days later at a memorial concert and was much more favorably received. The Pathétique has since become one of Tchaikovsky's best known works.

Tchaikovsky's death has traditionally been attributed to cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

, most probably contracted through drinking contaminated water several days earlier. However, some, including English musicologist and Tchaikovsky authority David Brown
David Brown (musicologist)
David Brown is an English musicologist, most noteworthy for his major study of Tchaikovsky’s life and works.Brown studied English, Latin and music at the University of Sheffield, graduating in 1951, and took his MusB there . During national service he studied Russian and was commissioned in the...

 and biographer Anthony Holden
Anthony Holden
Anthony Holden is an English writer, broadcaster and critic, particularly known as a biographer of artists including Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky, Leigh Hunt, Lorenzo da Ponte and Laurence Olivier, and of members of the British Royal family, notably Charles, Prince of Wales...

, have theorized that his death was a suicide. According to one variation of the theory, a sentence of suicide
Forced suicide
Forced suicide is a method of execution where the victim is coerced into committing suicide to avoid facing an alternative option they perceive as much worse, such as suffering torture or having friends or family members imprisoned, tortured, or killed...

 was imposed in a "court of honor" by Tchaikovsky's fellow alumni of the St. Petersburg Imperial School of Jurisprudence, as a censure of the composer's homosexuality. This unproven theory was first broached publicly by Russian musicologist Alexandra Orlova in 1979, when she emigrated to the West. Wiley writes in the New Grove (2001), "The polemics over [Tchaikovsky's] death have reached an impasse ... Rumor attached to the famous die hard ... As for illness, problems of evidence offer little hope of satisfactory resolution: the state of diagnosis; the confusion of witnesses; disregard of long-term effects of smoking and alcohol. We do not know how Tchaikovsky died. We may never find out ....."

Music



Tchaikovsky wrote many works which are popular with the classical music public, including his Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet (Tchaikovsky)
Romeo and Juliet is an orchestral work composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It is styled an Overture-Fantasy, and is based on Shakespeare's play of the same name. Like other composers such as Berlioz and Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky was deeply inspired by Shakespeare and wrote works based on The...

, the 1812 Overture
1812 Overture
The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49, popularly known as the 1812 Overture or the Overture of 1812 is an overture written by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing Grande Armée at the Battle of...

, his three ballets (The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St...

, Swan Lake
Swan Lake
Swan Lake ballet, op. 20, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, composed 1875–1876. The scenario, initially in four acts, was fashioned from Russian folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse. The choreographer of the original production was Julius Reisinger...

, The Sleeping Beauty) and Marche Slave. These, along with two of his four concerto
Concerto
A concerto is a musical work usually composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words...

s, three of his six numbered symphonies
Symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

 and, of his eight extant operas, The Queen of Spades
The Queen of Spades (opera)
The Queen of Spades, Op. 68 is an opera in 3 acts by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to a Russian libretto by the composer's brother Modest Tchaikovsky, based on a short story of the same name by Alexander Pushkin. The premiere took place in 1890 in St...

and Eugene Onegin
Eugene Onegin (opera)
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24, is an opera in 3 acts , by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto was written by Konstantin Shilovsky and the composer and his brother Modest, and is based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin....

, are among his most familiar works. Almost as popular are the Manfred Symphony
Manfred Symphony
The Manfred Symphony in B minor, Op. 58, is a programmatic symphony composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky between May and September 1885. It is based on the poem "Manfred" written by Lord Byron in 1817...

, Francesca da Rimini
Francesca da Rimini (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, Op. 32, was composed in less than three weeks during his visit to Bayreuth in the autumn of 1876....

, the Capriccio Italien
Capriccio Italien
The Capriccio Italien, Op. 45, is a fantasy for orchestra composed between January and May of 1880 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.The Capriccio was inspired by a trip Tchaikovsky took to Rome, during which he saw the Carnival in full swing, and is reminiscent of Italian folk music and street songs...

and the Serenade for Strings
Serenade for Strings (Tchaikovsky)
Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48, premiered in 1880. It remains one of the late Romantic era's most definitive compositions.-Form:Serenade for Strings has 4 movements:...

. His three string quartet
String quartet
A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group...

s and piano trio
Piano trio
A piano trio is a group of piano and two other instruments, usually a violin and a cello, or a piece of music written for such a group. It is one of the most common forms found in classical chamber music...

 all contain beautiful passages, while recitalists still perform some of his 106 songs. Tchaikovsky also wrote over a hundred piano works, covering the entire span of his creative life. Brown has asserted that "while some of these can be challenging technically, they are mostly charming, unpretentious compositions intended for amateur pianists." He adds, however, that "there is more attractive and resourceful music in some of these pieces than one might be inclined to expect."

Creative range


Tchaikovsky's formal conservatory training allowed him to write works with Western-oriented attitudes and techniques. His music showcases a wide range and breadth of technique, from a poised "Classical" form simulating 18th century Rococo
Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 elegance, to a style more characteristic of Russian nationalists, or (according to Brown) a musical idiom expressly to channel his own overwrought emotions. Despite his reputation as a "weeping machine," self-expression was not a central principle for Tchaikovsky. In a letter to von Meck dated December 5, 1878, he explained there were two kinds of inspiration for a symphonic composer, a subjective and an objective one, and that program music
Program music
Program music or programme music is a type of art music that attempts to musically render an extra-musical narrative. The narrative itself might be offered to the audience in the form of program notes, inviting imaginative correlations with the music...

 could and should exist, just as it was impossible to demand that literature make do without the epic element and limit itself to lyricism alone. Correspondingly, the large scale orchestral works Tchaikovsky composed can be divided into two categories—symphonies in one category, and other works such as symphonic poem
Symphonic poem
A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music in a single continuous section in which the content of a poem, a story or novel, a painting, a landscape or another source is illustrated or evoked. The term was first applied by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt to his 13 works in this vein...

s in the other. According to musicologist Francis Maes, program music such as Francesca da Rimini or the Manfred Symphony was as much a part of the composer's artistic credo as the expression of his "lyric ego." Maes also identifies a group of compositions which fall outside the dichotomy of program music versus "lyrical ego," where he hearkens toward pre-Romantic aesthetics. Works in this group include the four orchestral suites, Capriccio Italien, the Violin Concerto and the Serenade for Strings.

One of the recognizable characteristics of Tchaikovsky’s works is his use of harmony or rhythm to create a sudden, powerful release of emotion. Like the other Romantic composers of the era, Tchaikovsky colored his works with rich harmonies, utilizing German Augmented Sixth chords, minor triads with added major sixths, and augmented triads. These colorful harmonies progressed to moments of extreme emotion. Though the peaks were preceded by building tension, Tchaikovsky was often criticized for his lack of development throughout his material. Yet what critics failed to accept was the fact that Tchaikovsky was not attempting to smoothly develop his works, but rather disregard seamless flow and embrace the intense emotion created by momentous bursts of fervid harmonies.

Reception and reputation


Although Tchaikovsky's music has always been popular with audiences, it has at times been judged harshly by musicians and composers. However, his reputation is now generally regarded as secure. The initially criticized Swan Lake is currently seen as the first step in Tchaikovsky’s reputation as one of the most important and talented ballet composers. His music has won a significant following among concert audiences that is second only to the music of Beethoven, thanks in large part to what Harold C. Schonberg
Harold C. Schonberg
Harold Charles Schonberg was an American music critic and journalist, most notably for The New York Times. He was the first music critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism...

 terms "a sweet, inexhaustible, supersensuous fund of melody ... touched with neuroticism, as emotional as a scream from a window on a dark night." According to Wiley, this combination of supercharged melody and surcharged emotion polarized listeners, with popular appeal of Tchaikovsky's music counterbalanced by critical disdain of it as vulgar and lacking in elevated thought or philosophy. More recently, Tchaikovsky's music has received a professional reevaluation, with musicians reacting more favorably to its tunefulness and craftsmanship. Even more recent reevaluations, especially in David Brown's exhaustive four-volume critical and biographical study, have placed much more emphasis on Tchaikovsky's architectural soundness as well as his powers of melodic invention and orchestration, and he is now regarded as one of the leading and most influential composers of the second half of the nineteenth century.

Public considerations


Tchaikovsky believed that his professionalism in combining skill and high standards in his musical works separated him from his contemporaries in The Five. He shared several of their ideals, including an emphasis on national character in music. His aim, however, was to link those ideals to a standard high enough to satisfy Western European criteria. His professionalism also fueled his desire to reach a broad public, not just nationally but internationally, which he eventually did.

He may also have been influenced by the almost "eighteenth-century" patronage prevalent in Russia at the time, which was still strongly influenced by its aristocracy. In this style of patronage, the patron and the artist often met on equal terms. Dedications of works to patrons were not gestures of humble gratitude but expressions of artistic partnership
Partnership
A partnership is an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.Since humans are social beings, partnerships between individuals, businesses, interest-based organizations, schools, governments, and varied combinations thereof, have always been and remain commonplace...

. The dedication of the Fourth Symphony to Nadezhda von Meck is known to be a seal on their friendship. Tchaikovsky's relationship with Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich bore creative fruit in the Six Songs, Op. 63, for which the grand duke wrote the words. Tchaikovsky found no aesthetic conflict in playing to the tastes of his audiences, though it was never established that he satisfied any other tastes but his own. The patriotic themes and stylization of 18th-century melodies in his works lined up with the values of the Russian aristocracy.

Compositional style


According to Brown in the New Grove (1980), Tchaikovsky's melodies ranged "from Western style to folksong stylizations and occasionally folksongs themselves." His use of repetitions within these melodies generally reflect the sequential
Sequence (music)
In music, a sequence is the immediate restatement of a motif or longer melodic passage at a higher or lower pitch in the same voice. It is one of the most common and simple methods of elaborating a melody in eighteenth and nineteenth century classical music...

 style of Western practices, which he sometimes extended at immense length, building "into an emotional experience of almost unbearable intensity." He experimented occasionally with unusual meters, although more usually, as in his dance tunes, he employed a firm, essentially regular meter that "sometimes becomes the main expressive agent in some movements due to its vigorous use." Tchaikovsky also practiced a wide range of harmony, from the Western harmonic and textural practices of his first two string quartets to the use of the whole tone scale
Whole tone scale
In music, a whole tone scale is a scale in which each note is separated from its neighbors by the interval of a whole step. There are only two complementary whole tone scales, both six-note or hexatonic scales:...

 in the center of the finale of the Second Symphony; the latter was a practice more typically used by The Five. Since Tchaikovsky wrote most of his music for the orchestra, his musical textures became increasingly conditioned by the orchestral colors he employed, especially after the Second Orchestral Suite
Orchestral Suite No. 2 (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed his Orchestral Suite No. 2 in C major, Op. 53, in 1883. It was premiered on February 16, 1884 at a Russian Musical Society concert in Moscow, conducted by Max Erdmannsdörfer. The piece was well enough received to be repeated a week later...

. Brown maintains that while the composer was grounded in Western orchestral practices, he "preferred bright and sharply differentiated orchestral coloring in the tradition established by Glinka
Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka , was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music...

." He tends to exploit primarily the treble instruments for their "fleet delicacy," though he balances this tendency with "a matching exploration of the darker, even gloomy sounds of the bass instruments."

Impact


Wiley cites Tchaikovsky as "the first composer of a new Russian type, fully professional, who firmly assimilated traditions of Western European symphonic mastery; in a deeply original, personal and national style he unified the symphonic thought of Beethoven and Schumann with the works of Glinka, and transformed Liszt's and Berlioz's achievements in depictive-programmatic music
Program music
Program music or programme music is a type of art music that attempts to musically render an extra-musical narrative. The narrative itself might be offered to the audience in the form of program notes, inviting imaginative correlations with the music...

 into matters of Shakespearean elevation and psychological import."

Holden maintains that Tchaikovsky was the first legitimate professional Russian composer, stating that only traditions of folksong and music for the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 existed before Tchaikovsky's birth. Holden continues, "Twenty years after Tchaikovsky's death, in 1913, Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

's The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring, original French title Le sacre du printemps , is a ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky; choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky; and concept, set design and costumes by Nicholas Roerich...

erupted onto the musical scene, signalling Russia's arrival into 20th century music
20th century music
20th century music is defined by the sudden emergence of advanced technology for recording and distributing music as well as dramatic innovations in musical forms and styles...

. Between these two very different worlds Tchaikovsky's music became the sole bridge."

Russian musicologist Solomon Volkov
Solomon Volkov
Solomon Moiseyevich Volkov is a Russian journalist and musicologist. He is best known for Testimony, which was published in 1979 following his emigration from the Soviet Union in 1976...

 maintains that Tchaikovsky was perhaps the first Russian composer to think seriously about his country's place in European musical culture. As the composer wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Paris,

How pleasant it is to be convinced firsthand of the success of our literature in France. Every book étalage displays translations of Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

, Turgenev
Ivan Turgenev
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was a Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His first major publication, a short story collection entitled A Sportsman's Sketches, is a milestone of Russian Realism, and his novel Fathers and Sons is regarded as one of the major works of 19th-century...

, and Dostoyevsky ... The newspapers are constantly printing rapturous articles about one or another of these writers. Perhaps such a time will come for Russian music as well!


Tchaikovsky became the first Russian composer to personally acquaint foreign audiences with his own works, as well as those of other Russian composers. He also formed close business and personal ties with many of the leading musicians of Europe and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. For Russians, Volkov asserts, this was all something new and unusual.

Finally, the impact of Tchaikovsky's own works, especially in ballet, should not be underestimated; his mastery of danseuse (melodies which match physical movements perfectly), along with vivid orchestration, effective themes and continuity of thought were unprecedented in the genre, setting new standards for the role of music in classical ballet. Noel Goodwin characterized Swan Lake as "one of [ballet's] enduring masterworks" and The Sleeping Beauty as "the supreme example of 19th century classical ballet," while Wiley called the latter work "powerful, diverse and rhythmically complex."

External links


Public domain sheet music