- Mini Bio
- Name: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- Born: 7th May 1840, Votkinsk, Vyatka Governorate, Russian Empire
- Died: 6th November 1893, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
- Resting place: Tikhvin Cemetery, Alexander Nevsky Monastery, Saint Petersburg, Russia
- Alma Mater: Imperial School of Jurisprudence Saint Petersburg and the Conservatory Saint Petersburg
- Occupation: Composer
- Period: Romantic
- Genre: Russian Nationalist classical music
- Influenced by: Adolphe Adam, Anton Rubinstein, Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt, Georges Bizet, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Gioachino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, Glinka, Mozart, Richard Wagner and Robert Schumann
- Notable works: Romeo and Juliet (1869), Swan Lake (1876), Violin Concerto in D Major (1878) and his opera Eugene Onegin (1878), Capriccio Italien (1880), Serenade for Strings in C Major (1880), 1812 Overture (1880), Sleeping Beauty (1889) and The Nutcracker (1892)
- Marriage resume: Antonina Ivanovna Milioukova 1877 - 1893 (his death) The marriage was never consumated and they separated after a mere two months. It was a marital disaster that led Tchaikovsky to a nervous breakdown and the hapless Antonina to spend many a year in various psychiatric institutions
- Trivia: Tchaikovsky conducted his Marche Solennelle on 5th May 1891 at the official opening night at Carnegie Hall in New York
"The orchestra was large and very good, but because they had become used to playing for a mediocre conductor, they were unaccustomed to observing nuances, such that to obtain both P and PP from them was remarkably difficult"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"How nice it is to be able to verify with one's own eyes the success of our country's literature in France. All the shop-windows here flaunt translations of Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Pisemsky, and Goncharov"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"It turns out that in America I am ten times more renowned than in Europe. At first when people told me this I thought it was an exaggeration. But now I see that it is the truth. Here I am a ‘big shot’! Isn’t that curious?"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"In an artist absolute truth is to be found not in a banal, matter-of-fact sense, but in a higher one which opens up to us unknown horizons, unattainable spheres where only music is capable of penetrating"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Everyone here is crazy over the Andante, and when I played it with my brother as a pianoforte duet, one girl fainted away. To make the fair sex faint is the highest triumph to which any composer can attain"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Have you read that poor Lishin died? In my opinion, he was completely mediocre, and his musical activity was very unsympathetic to me; but, my God, what I feel sorry for when a young man dies!"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Perhaps never in my life has my composer's pride been so flattered and moved as when L. N. Tolstoy, sitting beside me and listening to the Andante from my First Quartet, burst into tears"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I may have to linger for a few days in Paris, because I've been invited to conduct at a grand concert in aid of the newly-established artists' mutual benefit society" (6th March 1888)Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"In Geneva I bought the pianoforte arrangements of several Mozart and Beethoven quartets, and I play one every evening. You have no idea how I enjoy this, and how it refreshes me"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I lost my temper, spat upon the book, tore it to pieces, stamped upon it, and wound up by throwing it out of the window. From that moment I cannot bear the mention of Victor Hugo"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Just as I was starting on my journey the idea came to me for a new symphony, this time with a program, but a program which will remain an enigma to all— let them guess it who can"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Young people are rebelling, and the atmosphere in Russia really and truly is very dismal. However, all this does not prevent me from loving Russia with a strange sort of love"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Fate... hangs over our heads like the sword of Damocles and inexorably distills a slow and deadly venom. One must bend to it and abandon oneself to boundless despair"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"The conductor here is not some second-rate fellow, but positively a genius, and he is burning with eagerness to conduct the first performance of Onegin" (about Gustav Mahler)Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Big articles are written about me in the newspapers, they scold a lot, but they treat me with much more respect, attention and interest than ours" (about the German critics)Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I am convinced that ten years hence Carmen will be the most popular opera in the world. But no one is a prophet in his own land. In Paris Carmen has had no real success"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I am re-reading Tolstoy with indescribable pleasure. The more I dislike him as a thinker and preacher, the more and more I bow before his mighty genius as a writer"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Only now, especially after the tale of my marriage, have I finally begun to understand that there is nothing more fruitless than not wanting to be that which I am by nature"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I am very well pleased with my musical work. As regards the literary side of it, I believe it will cost me some days of my life. I cannot describe how it exhausts me"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"There will be much innovation of form in this symphony— and incidentally, the finale will not be a noisy allegro but, on the contrary, a long drawn-out adagio"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Brahms, as a musical personality, is antipathetic to me. I cannot abide him. Whatever he does—I remain unmoved and cold. It is a purely instinctive feeling"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"You can't imagine what bliss I feel, being convinced that my time is not yet passed and I can still work. Perhaps, of course, I'm mistaken, but I don't think so"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"The society of another fellow-creature is only pleasant when a long-standing intimacy, or common interests, make it possible to dispense with all effort"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Even I, when I am writing an opera, feel somehow constrained and not free, and then it really does seem to me that I shall never write an opera again"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Amazing people, these Americans! Compared with Paris, where at every approach, in every stranger’s kindness, one feels an attempt at exploitation"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard! It annoys me that this self-inflated mediocrity is hailed as a genius"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"He was devoid of self-satisfaction and boastfulness; he seems hardly to have been conscious of the greatness of his genius" (about Mozart)Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Fame! What contradictory sentiments the word awakes in me! On the one hand I desire and strive for it; on the other I detest it"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I feel that as long as I can hold a pen in my hand I will nevertheless write more operas than symphonies or string quartets"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I do not intend to indulge in inaction at all - I will only devote the rest of my strength to the pursuit of more useful tasks"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"To squeeze music out of one’s brain every day for ten weeks is indeed an exhausting process. Now I can breathe freely"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I believe Oniegin and one or two of my instrumental works are far more closely allied to my individual temperament"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"What I need is to believe in myself again - for my faith has been greatly undermined; it seems to me my role is over"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"You are one of those writers who cause us to love not only their works but also themselves" (about Leo Tolstoy)Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Tolstoy is a somewhat paradoxical man, though certainly frank, kind, and in his way even sensitive to music"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"The thought that this paper is going to be in your hands fills me with joy and brings tears to my eyes"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"The greatest of all writers and artists ever to have existed anywhere" (describing Leo Tolstoy)Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Generally speaking, the germ of a future composition comes suddenly and unexpectedly"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"My melancholy has passed, but nevertheless I still cannot wait for this journey to end"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I would give anything for my Maid of Orleans to turn out as good as Le Roi de Lahore"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"After the last notes of Gotterdammerung I felt as though I had been let out of prison"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"My rendezvous had been arranged for this evening. A truly bitter-sweet dilemma!"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"How many penholders I gnaw to pieces before a few lines grow perfect"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I shall strive for mastery until my last breath, without ever attaining it"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"During my trip, while composing in my mind, I frequently shed tears"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Doesn't a true philosopher know only that he knows nothing?"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Truly there would be reason to go mad were it not for music"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"I am a Russian, Russian, Russian, to the marrow of my bones"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"Raphael is still my favourite-the Mozart of painters"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
"An author never judges his own works with justice"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
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Controversial Death of Tchaikovsky
His demise has proved very controversial with many theories questioning the official narrative of cholera killing a healthy 53 year old male who avoided risk in his diet, especially drinking unboiled water. Could it have been suicide or some other foul means? What cannot be disputed is the mystery surrounding his death which has so far raised more questions than answers and will likely never be resolved to provide a definitive conclusion to his untimely demise
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Legacy
The musical heritage of Tchaikovsky is destined to live long and strong due to its timeless reflection of the human experience conveyed so delicately that it had to patiently mature while the twentieth century ripened into an era of appreciative musical reception.
Historically, his boundary bursting music found his critics wanting whilst it detained him at the critical juncture of indistinctive culture. Back in the day his critics often dismissed him as:
"too Russian for great Western music and not Russian enough for Russia".
Today, the inclusion of more of his music than any other Russian classical composer in the modern repertoire is the smoking gun proving Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's legacy is of a man of musical vision born way ahead of his time.
Quotes About Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The researcher Alexander Komarov shared this glowing assessment:
"Tchaikovsky’s natural gifts, perfected through hard work and placed in the service of a spiritual quest, put him on a par with the great masters of the past who attained new levels of artistic greatness and originality"
The conductor Leon Botstein voiced this view:
"Tchaikovsky’s real triumph, in fact, was his expression of a disarmingly effective and direct form of psychological realism, using instrumental music"
The Austrian music critic Eduard Hanslick reserved some harsh words for him:
"The Russian composer Tchaikovsky is surely not an ordinary talent, but rather an inflated one, with a genius-obsession without discrimination or taste"
Hanslick went on to state this infamous critique:
"Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto gives us for the first time the hideous notion that there can be music that stinks to the ear"
The Russian composer Nikolai Myaskovsky was more sympathetic of his work as he once described Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony as:
"one of the greatest creations of Russian music"
The academic Marina Kostalevsky talked significantly of the 2009 release of archival documents including letters to and from the composer:
"it was not perceived by many Russians as the definitive argument in a dispute that has gone on for years about Tchaikovsky’s sexuality. Some readers have even questioned the authenticity of particular letters kept in the archive. Therefore, it can be argued that the Russian edition, despite the wealth of new information … about Tchaikovsky’s life, did not erase the old biases about his sexuality in his native country"
The acclaimed Russian writer Leo Tolstoy mused upon this interesting comparison:
"Look, you take a novel by Walter Scott, or even Dickens, and read it to a peasant - he'll understand it. But take him to listen to a symphony by Tchaikovsky or by Brahms and company, and all he'll be able to hear is noise"
The Russian music critic Nikolay Kashkin opined this opinion:
"He has all the essential attributes for conducting an orchestra: total self-control, extreme clarity and definition in his beat … His direction of the orchestra is distinctive for its utter simplicity"
The composer and critic César Cui was disparaging about Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1:
"It has a lot of nice and agreeable things, but depth and power it has none whatsoever"
In a letter, a young Gustav Mahler once described Tchaikovsky as:
"an elderly gentleman, very likeable, with elegant manners, who seems to be quite rich"
The writer Leslie Kearney delved the purple prose of psychological comparison:
"Tchaikovsky has long intrigued music-lovers as a figure who straddles many borders - between East and West, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, tradition and innovation, tenderness and bombast, masculine and feminine"
The musicologist Roland John Wiley commented on his questionable demise:
"The polemics over [Tchaikovsky's] death have reached an impasse ... Rumors attached to the famous die hard ... As for illness, problems of evidence offer little hope of satisfactory resolution: the state of diagnosis; the confusion of witnesses; disregard of long-term effects of smoking and alcohol. We do not know how Tchaikovsky died. We may never find out"
The historian Joseph Horowitz shared a modern day assessment:
"Tchaikovsky is today more admired than deplored for his emotional frankness; if his music seems harried and insecure, so are we all"
The British critic Anthony Holden put the pieces together with this excellent summation:
"Twenty years after Tchaikovsky's death, in 1913, Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring erupted onto the musical scene, signalling Russia's arrival into 20th-century music. Between these two very different worlds, Tchaikovsky's music became the sole bridge"