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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

May 7, 1840 - November 6, 1893
born in Votkinsk, Viatka district, Russia, composed during the Romantic period
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky was the author of some of the most popular themes in all of classical music. He founded no school, struck out no new paths or compositional methods, and sought few innovations in his works. Yet the power and communicative sweep of his best music elevates it to classic status, even if it lacks the formal boldness and harmonic sophistication heard in the compositions of his contemporaries, Wagner and Bruckner. It was Tchaikovsky's unique melodic charm that could, whether in his Piano Concerto No. 1 or in his ballet The Nutcracker or in his tragic last symphony, make the music sound familiar on first hearing.

Tchaikovsky was born into a family of five brothers and one sister. He began taking piano lessons at age four and showed remarkable talent, eventually surpassing his own teacher's abilities. By age nine, he exhibited severe nervous problems, not least because of his overly sensitive nature. The following year, he was sent to St. Petersburg to study at the School of Jurisprudence. The loss of his mother in 1854 dealt a crushing blow to the young Tchaikovsky. In 1859, he took a position in the Ministry of Justice, but longed for a career in music, attending concerts and operas at every opportunity. He finally began study in harmony with Zaremba in 1861, and enrolled at the St. Petersburg Conservatory the following year, eventually studying composition with Anton Rubinstein.

In 1866, the composer relocated to Moscow, accepting a professorship of harmony at the new conservatory, and shortly afterward turned out his First Symphony, suffering, however, a nervous breakdown during its composition. His opera The Voyevoda came in 1867-1868 and he began another, The Oprichnik, in 1870, completing it two years later. Other works were appearing during this time, as well, including the First String Quartet (1871), the Second Symphony (1873), and the ballet Swan Lake (1875).

In 1876, Tchaikovsky traveled to Paris with his brother, Modest, and then visited Bayreuth, where he met Liszt, but was snubbed by Wagner. By 1877, Tchaikovsky was an established composer. This was the year of Swan Lake's premiere and the time he began work on the Fourth Symphony (1877-1878). It was also a time of woe: in July, Tchaikovsky, despite his homosexuality, foolishly married Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova, an obsessed admirer, their disastrous union lasting just months. The composer attempted suicide in the midst of this episode. Near the end of that year, Nadezhda von Meck, a woman he would never meet, became his patron and frequent correspondent.

Further excursions abroad came in the 1880s, along with a spate of successful compositions, including the Serenade for Strings (1881), 1812 Overture (1882), and the Fifth Symphony (1888). In both 1888 and 1889, Tchaikovsky went on successful European tours as a conductor, meeting Brahms, Grieg, Dvorák, Gounod, and other notable musical figures. Sleeping Beauty was premiered in 1890, and The Nutcracker in 1892, both with success.

Throughout Tchaikovsky's last years, he was continually plagued by anxiety and depression. A trip to Paris and the United States followed one dark nervous episode in 1891. Tchaikovsky wrote his Sixth Symphony, "Pathétique," in 1893, and it was successfully premiered in October, that year. The composer died ten days later of cholera, or -- as some now contend -- from drinking poison in accordance with a death sentence conferred on him by his classmates from the School of Jurisprudence, who were fearful of shame on the institution owing to an alleged homosexual episode involving Tchaikovsky. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Complete Symphonies (Box)

Disc 1
Title: Symphony No. 1 In G Minor ("Winter Dreams"), Op. 13
Title: 1812 -- Festival Overture, For Orchestra In E Flat Major, Op. 49
Disc 2
Title: Symphony No. 2 In C Minor ("Little Russian"), Op. 17
Title: Serenade For Strings (Or Piano, 4 Hands) In C Major, Op. 48
Disc 3
Title: Symphony No. 3 In D Major ("Polish"), Op. 29
Title: The Swan Lake, Suite, Op. 20a
Disc 4
Title: Symphony No. 4 In F Minor, Op. 36
Title: Francesca Da Rimini, Symphonic Fantasy For Orchestra In E Minor, Op. 32
Disc 5
Title: Symphony No. 5 In E Minor, Op. 64
Disc 6
Title: Symphony No. 6 In B Minor ("Pathétique"), Op.74
Title: Romeo And Juliet, Fantasy-overture For Orchestra
Disc 7
Title: Manfred Symphony, For Orchestra (Or Piano, 4 Hands) In B Minor, Op. 58
x

Track List: Nutcracker: The Motion Picture

Disc 1
Title: Nutcracker, Ballet, Op. 71
Disc 2
Title: Pique Dame (The Queen Of Spades), Opera, Op. 68
x

Track List: Swan Lake

Disc 1
Title: The Swan Lake, Ballet, Op. 20
Disc 2
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky Complete Songs 1

x

Track List: Tchaikovsky Gala In Leningrad

Title: Eugene Onegin, Opera, Op. 24
Title: Sérénade Mélancolique, For Violin & Orchestra (or Piano) In B Minor, Op. 26
Title: Valse-scherzo, For Violin & Orchestra (or Violin & Piano) In C Major, Op. 34
Title: Songs (6) For Voice & Piano, Op. 65
Title: Variations On A Rococo Theme, For Cello & Orchestra (Or Cello & Piano) In A Major, Op. 33
Title: The Maid Of Orléans (Jeanne D'arc), Opera
Title: 1812 -- Festival Overture, For Orchestra In E Flat Major, Op. 49
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky Highlights

Title: Nutcracker, Suite From The Ballet, Op. 71a
Title: The Swan Lake, Ballet, Op. 20
Title: The Sleeping Beauty, Suite For Orchestra, Op. 66a
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Ballet Suites

Title: Nutcracker, Suite From The Ballet, Op. 71a
Title: The Swan Lake, Ballet, Op. 20
Title: The Sleeping Beauty, Suite For Orchestra, Op. 66a
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Ballet Suites

Title: The Swan Lake, Suite, Op. 20a
Title: The Sleeping Beauty, Suite For Orchestra, Op. 66a
Title: Nutcracker, Suite From The Ballet, Op. 71a
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Complete Songs Vol.2

Title: Children's Songs (16) For Voice & Piano, Op. 54
Title: Songs (6) For Voice & Piano, Op. 73
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Complete Songs, Vol. 3

Title: Both Painfully And Sweetly, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 6/3
Title: My Genius, My Angel, My Friend, Song For Voice & Piano
Title: Twas You Alone, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 57/6
Title: Do Not Ask, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 57/3
Title: Death, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 57/5
Title: None But The Lonely Heart, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 6/6
Title: Why?, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 6/5
Title: Songs (6) For Voice & Piano, Op. 63
Title: Not A Word, O My Friend, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 6/2
Title: Pimpinella (The Florence Song), For Voice & Piano, Op. 38/6
Title: Sleep, Poor Friend, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 47/4
Title: Songs (6) For Voice & Piano, Op. 63
Title: Why Did I Dream Of You?, For Voice & Piano, Op. 28/3
Title: Songs (6) For Voice & Piano, Op. 63
Title: Do Not Believe My Friend, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 6/1
Title: The Fearful Moment, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 28/6
Title: Sleep!, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 57/4
Title: Songs (6) For Voice & Piano, Op. 63
Title: On The Golden Cornfields, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 57/2
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Complete Songs, Vol. 4

x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Complete Suites For Orchestra

Disc 1
Title: Suite No. 1 For Orchestra In D Minor, Op. 43
Title: Suite No. 2 For Orchestra In C Major ("Charactéristique"), Op. 53
Disc 2
Title: Suite No. 3 For Orchestra In G Major, Op. 55
Title: Suite No. 4 For Orchestra In G Major ("Mozartiana"), Op. 61
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart

x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Piano Music

Title: Morceaux (2) For Piano (or Piano & Violin), Op. 10
Title: Valse-scherzo, For Piano In A Major, Op. 7
Title: Morceaux (2) For Piano (or Piano & Violin), Op. 10
Title: Morceaux (6) For Piano, Op. 19
Title: Douze Morceaux (Difficulté Moyenne), Pieces (12) For Piano, Op. 40
Title: Romance, For Piano In F Minor, Op. 5
Title: Morceaux (6) For Piano, Op. 51
Title: Morceaux (18) For Piano, Op. 72
Title: Morceaux (6) For Piano, Op. 19
Title: Morceaux (6) For Piano, Op. 51
Title: Morceaux (18) For Piano, Op. 72
Title: The Seasons, For Piano, Op. 37
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame

Disc 1
Title: Pique Dame (The Queen Of Spades), Opera, Op. 68
Disc 2
Disc 3
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: String Quartets Nos. 1 - 3/Souvenir De Florence

Disc 1
Title: String Quartet No. 1 In D Major, Op. 11
Title: String Quartet In B Flat Major (in 1 Movement)
Title: Souvenir De Florence, For String Sextet Or String Orchestra In D Major, Op. 70
Disc 2
Title: String Quartet No. 2 In F Major, Op. 22
Title: String Quartet No. 3 In E Flat Minor, Op. 30
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake

Title: The Swan Lake, Ballet, Op. 20
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake / The Nutcracker / The Sleeping Beauty (Complete Recordings) - Boston Symphony Orchestra / Seiji Ozawa / Russian National Orchestra / Mikhail Pletnev

Disc 1
Disc 2
Title: Nutcracker, Ballet, Op. 71
Disc 3
Disc 4
Title: The Sleeping Beauty, Ballet, Op. 66
Disc 5
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: Symphony Pathetique

Disc 1
Title: Slavonic March, For Orchestra, Op. 31
Title: Morceaux (6) composés sur un seul thème, for piano, Op. 21
Disc 2
Title: The Sleeping Beauty, Ballet, Op. 66
Title: The Seasons, For Piano, Op. 37
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: The Nutracker Suite; Swan Lake

Title: Nutcracker, Suite From The Ballet, Op. 71a
Title: The Swan Lake, Ballet, Op. 20
Title: The Sleeping Beauty, Ballet, Op. 66
Title: Eugene Onegin, Opera, Op. 24
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: The Seasons

Title: The Seasons, For Piano, Op. 37
Title: Chanson Triste, For Piano, Op. 40/2
Title: Douze Morceaux (Difficulté Moyenne), Pieces (12) For Piano, Op. 40
Title: Chant Sans Paroles (Song Without Words) For Piano In A Minor, Op. 40/6
Title: Russian Dance, For Piano In A Minor, Op. 40/10
Title: Douze Morceaux (Difficulté Moyenne), Pieces (12) For Piano, Op. 40
x

Track List: Tchaikovsky: The Seasons