“Truly there would be reason to go mad were it not for music.” — Tchiakovsky
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky died on this day in St. Petersburg, Russia, at age 53.
He was born Pyotr Tchaikovsky in Votkinsk, Vyatka Guberniya, Russia on April 23, 1840.
His father, Ilya Petrovich Tchaikovsky, was a mining engineer who was the manager of the Kamsko-Votkinsk Ironworks. His mother, Alexandra, was Ilya Petrovich’s second wife. She was Russian of French descent. Alexandra was 18 years younger than Ilya Petrovich. Both his parents were artistic and musical.
He received piano lessons from a freed serf, beginning at the age of five, and within a few months he was already proficient in Friedrich Kalkbrenner’s composition Le Fou. [New World Encylopedia.org]
The Tchiakovskys moved to St. Petersburg In 1850 and Peter attended the School of Jurisprudence. He continued to study piano. His mother’s death (from cholera) while his was away at school was one of the most devastating events of his life. He wrote one of his first real compositions, a waltz, in her memory.
Tchaikovsky left school in 1858 and received employment as an under-secretary at the Ministry of Justice at the time when the Ministry was drafting legislation for emancipation of the serfs and implementation of various reforms. [Ibid]
He longed to further his musical studies, but hesitated giving up his secure position at the Ministry. In 1862, with his father’s permission (and promise of financial support) he enrolled at the new St Petersburg Conservatory where he studied “harmony, counterpoint and the fugue… instrumentation and composition” [Ibid]
In 1865, after graduating from the Conservatory he secured a post as “professor of harmony, composition, and the history of music” at the Moscow Conservatory. Besides teaching he continued to compose and added music criticism to CV. Teaching proved to much for him and he suffered a nervous break down in 1877.
The next several years were spent recovering and “wandering” (he toured Italy and Switzerland) before he landed at his sister Alexandra’s estate near Kiev. There he began to write and conduct for the orchestra.
In 1891 he had a triumphant tour America which included his May 5 performance of “Marche Solennelle on the opening night of New York’s Carnegie Hall.” [Ibid]
Here’s his Serenade for Strings in C:
Tchaikovsky died, like his mother before him, of cholera. The composer drank “contaminated water in a restaurant, well aware of the risk of drinking unboiled water during a cholera epidemic” [Ibid] on this date in 1893. He was 53 years old.
Notable works include:
- Swan Lake (Ballet) 1875-1876
- The Sleeping Beauty (Ballet) 1888-1889
- The Nutcracker (Ballet) 1891-1892
- Eugene Onegin (Opera) 1877-1878
- The Maid of Orleans (Opera) 1878-1879
- Iolanthe (Opera) 1891
- Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture (Orchestral) 1869
- 1812 Overture (Orchestral) 1880
- Symphony 1- 7 and Concertos
Couldn’t do Tchaikovsky with out this…
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