Today's Birthdays

one click shows all of today's celebrity birthdays

Browse All Birthdays

43,625    Actors
27,931    Actresses
4,867    Composers
7,058    Directors
842    Footballers
221    Racing drivers
925    Singers
9,111    Writers

Get FamousLikeMe on your website
One line of code gets FamousLikeMe on your website. Find out more.

Subscribe to Daily updates

Add to Google

privacy policy

Famous Like Me > Composer > T > Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Profile of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on Famous Like Me

Name: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 25th April 1840
Place of Birth: Votkinsk, Russia
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky listen [▶]help (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский, sometimes transliterated as Piotr, Anglicised as Peter Ilich), (May 7, 1840 – November 6, 1893 (N.S.); April 25, 1840 – October 25, 1893 (O.S.)) was a Russian composer of the Romantic era. Although not a member of the group of nationalistic composers usually known in English-speaking countries as The Five, his music has come to be known and loved for its distinctly Russian character as well as its rich harmonies and stirring melodies. His works, however, were much more western than his Russian contemporaries as he effectively used both nationalistic folk melodies and international elements.


Tchaikovsky was born in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russia, to a Ukrainian mining engineer and his second wife, a woman of French ancestry. His last name derives from Tchaika (чайка) which means gull. (The initial 'T' is traditional; modern transliteration schemes would generally omit it, as in 'Chaika' cars.) Musically precocious, he began piano lessons at the age of five. He obtained an excellent general education at the School of Jurisprudence and was a civil servant before entering the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1861 to 1865. In 1866, he was appointed professor of theory and harmony at the Moscow Conservatory, established that year. He held the post until approximately 1878.

During his puberty at the School of Jurisprudence, Tchaikovsky discovered his sexual attraction to other males. As a young man he fell in love with a (female) soprano, but she married another man. One of his conservatory students, Antonina Milyukova, began writing him passionate letters around the time that he had made up his mind to "marry whoever will have me." He didn't even remember her from his classes, but her letters were very persistent, and he hastily married her on July 18, 1877. Within days, while still on their honeymoon, he deeply regretted his decision. Two weeks after the wedding the composer attempted suicide by wading in a cold river. He later fled to Saint Petersburg a nervous wreck, and was separated from his wife after only six weeks. The couple never saw each other again, although they never divorced and Tchaikovsky died a married man. His widow died in an insane asylum 24 years later. (Greenberg)

A far more influential woman in Tchaikovsky's life was a wealthy widow, Madame Nadezhda von Meck, with whom he exchanged 1,200 letters between 1877 and 1890. At her insistence they never met; they did encounter each other on two occasions, purely by chance, but did not converse. As well as financial support in the amount of 6,000 rubles a year, she expressed interest in his musical career and admiration for his music. However, after 14 years she ended the relationship unexpectedly, claiming bankruptcy. Her claim of financial ruin, however, is widely disregarded and it is believed that she ended her patronage of Tchaikovsky because she discovered the maverick composer's true sexual orientation. It is possible she was planning to marry off one of her daughters to Tchaikovsky, as she also tried unsuccessfully to marry one of them to Claude Debussy, who had lived in Russia for a time as music teacher to her family. Also, one of her sons, Nikolay Karlovich von Meck, was married to Anna Davydova, Tchaikovsky's niece, the daughter of one of his sisters. It was during this period that Tchaikovsky achieved success throughout Europe and (by his own account), in 1891, even greater accolades in the United States.

Just nine days after the first performance of his Sixth Symphony, Pathétique, in 1893, in Saint Petersburg, Tchaikovsky died.

Details of his death have been a source of controversy for more than a century, and never more so than after 1980, when Aleksandra Orlova published a detailed theory explaining Tchaikovsky's death as a suicide. According to Orlova, Tchaikovsky committed suicide by consuming small doses of arsenic. His death took four days and was planned to be consistent with symptoms of cholera.

The cover story was that he drank infected water, from which he acquired cholera. In reality, according to Orlova's theory, a former classmate from the School of Jurisprudence came into posession of a letter from a member of the Russian aristocracy addressed to the Tsar that complained of Tchaikovsky's affair with the aristocrat's nephew. The letter bearer gathered six other classmates living in St. Petersburg, and they confronted Tchaikovsky. They gave him the singular option of killing himself to avoid the publicity of the scandal, which would dishonor the school. According to the theory, Tchaikovsky's own brother, Modest, also a homosexual, helped conspire to keep the secret.

Tchaikovsky was interred in Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Saint Petersburg.

His life, somewhat embroidered, is the subject of Ken Russell's motion picture The Music Lovers.

Musical Works


Tchaikovsky is perhaps most well known for his ballets, although it was only in his last years, with his last two ballets, that his contemporaries came to really appreciate his qualities as ballet music composer.

  • (1875–1876): Swan Lake, Op. 20. Tchaikovsky's first ballet, it was first performed (with some omissions) at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1877.
  • (1888–1889): Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66. This work Tchaikovsky considered to be one of his best. Its first performance was in 1890 at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg.
  • (1891–1892): The Nutcracker, Op. 71. Tchaikovsky himself was less satisfied with this, his last ballet.


Tchaikovsky wrote ten operas, including:

  • (1877–1888): Eugene Onegin, Op. 24
  • (1881): The Maid of Orleans
  • (1884): Mazeppa
  • (1890): The Queen of Spades, Op. 68
  • (1892): Iolanthe


Tchaikovsky's earlier symphonies are generally happy works of nationalistic character, while the later symphonies dwell on fate, turmoil and, particularly in the Sixth, despair. Despite this, the last three of his numbered symphonies (the fourth, fifth and sixth) are widely held as masterpieces of the symphonic form and are frequently performed.

  • (1866): No. 1 in G minor, Op. 13, Winter Daydreams
  • (1872): No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17, Little Russian
  • (1875): No. 3 in D major, Op. 29, Polish
  • (1877–1878): No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36
  • (1885): Manfred Symphony, B minor, Op. 58. Based on Manfred.
  • (1888): No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64
  • (1893): No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, Pathétique

He also wrote four orchestral suites between the 4th and 5th symphonies. He originally intended to call one or more of these "symphony" but was persuaded to alter the title. The four suites are nonetheless symphonic in character, and often-neglected masterpieces of orchestral writing.


  • (1874–1875): Of his three concertos for piano, it is No.1 in B flat minor, Op. 23, which is best known and most highly regarded, and one of the most popular piano concertos ever written. It was initially rejected by its dedicatee, the pianist Nikolai Grigoryevich Rubinstein, as poorly composed and unplayable, and subsequently premiered by Hans von Bülow (who was delighted to find such a piece to play) in Boston, Massachusetts in 1875. Van Cliburn, an American, won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition with this piece and stunned Russian citizens — because this contest was meant to celebrate Russians and being Russian.
  • (1878): His Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, was composed in less than a month during March and April 1878, but its first performance was delayed until 1881 because Leopold Auer, the violinist to whom Tchaikovsky had intended to dedicate the work, refused to perform it. This violin concerto is widely held as one of the greatest concertos for the instrument and is frequently performed today.
  • (1889): The so-called "Third Piano Concerto in E flat major", Op. 75, has a curious history. It was commenced after the 5th symphony, and was intended to be his next symphony, ie. his 6th. However he abandoned work on this score and instead directed his efforts towards what we now know as the Sixth Symphony, which is a completely different work (the 'Pathétique'). After Tchaikovsky's death, the composer Sergei Taneyev re-worked the abandoned symphony, added a piano part, and published it as "Third Piano Concerto by Tchaikovsky". However, a more accurate title would be "An unfinished symphony by Tchaikovsky, realised for piano and orchestra by Taneyev". The unfinished symphony was also completed by the Soviet composer Semyon Bogatyrev and published as "Symphony No 7 in E flat major".

Other works

For orchestra

The 1812 overture complete with cannon fire was performed at the 2005 Classical Spectacular
  • (1869, rev, 1870, 1880): Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture This piece contains one of the world's most famous melodies. The tremendously famous love theme in the middle of this long symphonic poem has been used countless times in commercials and movies, frequently as a spoof to traditional love scenes.
  • (1876): Marche Slave, Op. 31. This piece is another well-known Tchaikovsky piece and is often played in conjunction with the 1812 Overture. This work uses the Czarist National Anthem (as does the 1812), which is peculiar as that theme is Russian, rather than Slavic. This piece is mostly in a minor key and is yet another very recognisable piece, commonly referenced in cartoons, commercials and the media. The piece is much in the style of a capriccio.
  • (1876): Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32
  • (1880): Capriccio Italien, Op. 45. This piece is a traditional caprice or capriccio (in Italian) in an Italian style. Tchaikovsky stayed in Italy in the late 1870s to early 1880s and throughout the various festivals he heard many themes, some of which were played by trumpets, samples of which can be heard in this caprice. It has a lighter character than many of his works, even "bouncy" in places, and is often performed today in addition to the 1812 Overture.
  • (1880): 1812 Overture, Op. 49. This piece was written by Tchaikovsky to commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars. It is known for its traditional Russian themes (such as the old Czarist National Anthem) as well as its famously triumphant and bombastic coda at the end which uses cannons (16 shots, to be exact) and a chorus of church bells. Despite its popularity, Tchaikovsky wrote that he "did not have [his] heart in it".

For choir, songs, chamber music, and for solo piano

  • (1871) String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11
  • (1876) 'Variations on a Rococo theme' for cello and orchestra, Op. 33.
  • (1876) Piano suite The Seasons, Op. 37a
  • (1882) Piano trio in A minor, Op. 50
  • (1886) Dumka, Russian rustic scene in C minor for piano, Op. 59
  • (1890) String sextet Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70

For a complete list of works by opus number, see . For more detail on dates of composition, see .


1812 Overture (info)
1812 Overture
Overture (info)
from the Nutcracker Suite
March (info)
from the Nutcracker Suite
Trepak (Russian Dance) (info)
from the Nutcracker Suite
Tea (Chinese Dance) (info)
from the Nutcracker Suite
Problems listening to the files? See media help.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky