We continue our salute to Disney’s Fantasia with the ever-fabulous Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. With so many amazing works in his repertoire, how could we not love him?
b. May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia
d. November 6, 1893 in St. Petersburg, Russia
Tchaikovsky began studying piano at age five and went on to train to work as a civil servant. Against his family’s wishes he discontinued his studies and entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
Despite Tchaikovsky’s great career success he battled depression, suppressed his homosexuality and had a disastrous marriage. His nephew was one of the great loves of his life. In tandem with the drama of his personal life, Tchaikovsky received numerous honors for his work.
Over the course of his career, Tchaikovsky composed music for 3 ballets, 10 operas, incidental music for 5 plays, 7 symphonies, 11 concertos, 4 string quartets and a number of other chamber works. His famous compositions include Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker and the 1812 Overture.
Tchaikovsky taught at the Moscow Conservatory but left when arts patron Nadezhda von Meck began giving him 6000 rubles per year to fund his work. He toured the US and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University, and in 1891 Carnegie Hall proclaimed him, along with Brahms and Saint-Saens the three greatest living musicians. Critics called him a “modern music lord,” and he was admired by all levels of society in Russia and was a national treasure.