Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was one of the most important Russian composers of the 19th century. In the music theory, his internationally known works are associated with the Romanticism. Apart from his 9 operas, especially his ballets “Swan Lake”, “The Sleeping Beauty” and “The Nutcracker” are of particular importance.

Musical work

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 and descended from a prestigious middle-class family. The talented musician early received piano lessons and demonstrated his extraordinary abilities already as a child. Nevertheless, he paved the way for his successful career as musician not until the age of 21, when he began his musical studies at the Conservatory of St. Petersburg. There he was personally taught by the well-known Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein, and acquired the lack of knowledge in composition and music theory. The first compositions of Tchaikovsky like his overture "Romeo and Juliet" did not celebrate their premiere until he moved to Moscow in 1870.

The composer had to wait long for his major successes though. Even today's ballet classic "Swan Lake" was rejected by the audience at first. In his last years he composed many of his most famous works like the opera "Eugene Onegin" and "The Queen of Spades", the ballets "The Nutcracker" and "The Sleeping Beauty", as well as his overture "Hamlet" and his Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique".

In addition to his work as a composer, Tchaikovsky also worked as conductor and music critic in later years. As music critic, he repeatedly expressed his rejection of Bach, Beethoven, Liszt and Verdi, whom he considered to be "overrated".

Characteristics & effects of his work

Tchaikovsky's works are mainly characterized by their highly personal, emotionally strong expression of will which is reflected in sensitive melodic elements in his music. In addition, his music finds itself in an extraordinary tension between the music of the Western world and the Russian national folk art, which has been especially represented by the so-called "Group of Five" (Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov).

Tchaikovsky composed important works in almost all genres. The peak of his musical creativity was reached with his Symphonies No. 4 and 5, but especially with his last Symphony No. 6 ("Pathétique"), which he finished shortly before his death. Also his ballets "Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker" form central parts of the standard repertoire in many cultural institutions today.

Most significant works (Selection):

Op. 20 – „Swan Lake“
Op. 24 – „Eugene Onegin“
Op. 36 – Symphony No. 4 in F minor
Op. 64 – Symphony No. 5 in E minor
Op. 66 – “The Sleeping Beauty”
Op. 68 – “The Queen of Spades”
Op. 71 – „The Nutcracker“
Op. 74 – Symphony No. 6 in B minor “Pathétique”

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