Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk on 7 May 1840. At the age of four he began piano lessons, and showed great talent, but his parents decided to have him trained for a career as a civil servant, and sent him away at the age of ten to study.
In 1854 his mother died from cholera, and a few weeks after this, Tchaikovsky wrote a waltz in her memory - his first serious attempt at composition.
He graduated from school in 1859 and spent three years in the civil service. In his spare time he took music theory classes from Nikolai Zaremba, and followed Zaremba to the St Petersburg Conservatory. When his father agreed to support him, Tchaikovsky gave up his job and from 1862 he studied harmony, counterpoint and fugue with Zaremba and instrumentation and composition with the conservatory's director and founder, Anton Rubinstein, who was impressed by the young man's talent.
On graduation he was given a teaching job at the Moscow Conservatory by Nikolai Rubinstein, Anton's younger brother. He steered an independent path, away from Mily Balakirev's nationalistic ideas and the conservative faction at the conservatories, although his first major achievement - the fantasy overture Romeo and Juliet, was the result of a working relationship with Balakirev.
He was married briefly to a former student, Antonina Millukova, but most scholars believe that he was gay.
From 1877 until 1890 he received financial support from Nadezhda von Meck, a wealthy widow and patron of the arts, and they wrote more than 1,200 letters to each other.
Tchaikovsky became well-known outside of Russia, but was classed as something of a renegade within his own country, until 1880, when the prevailing wind changed, and things began to go well for him.
His music is generally cosmopolitan, but often includes Russian traditional tunes and dance forms.
Tchaikovsky died in St Petersburg on 6 November 1893, just a few days after the first performance of his Symphony No 6, the Pathétique. The cause of his death is usually attributed to cholera, possibly from drinking contaminated drinking water, but some believe that he killed himself.
A selection of M&V articles about Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
CD Spotlight. Likeable Discs - Music for cello and piano, heard by Howard Smith. '... affectionately presented throughout.'
Ensemble. Open-air Performance - A triptych of ballet on tour, with dancing in the monumental Roman ruins, experienced by Giuseppe Pennisi
CD Spotlight. Sheer Delight - Halida Dinova plays music for children, recommended by Howard Smith. '... palpable finesse.'
Ensemble. Collective Virtuosity - Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov and Britten from Natalie Clein, the Moscow Philharmonic and Yuri Simonov, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Convincingly Integrated - Sibelius, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky from the Philharmonia Orchestra impress Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Umpteen Contemporaries - Yoon-Hee Kim plays Khachaturian and Tchaikovsky, heard by Howard Smith. '... she appears to lack the aural muscle of others ...'
CD Spotlight. On Top Form - Géza Anda plays Bartók and Tchaikovsky, heard by Robert Anderson. '... splendid unanimity between pianist and conductor.'
CD Spotlight. Heartfelt Buoyancy - Tchaikovsky, known and unknown, heard by Gerald Fenech. '... a wondrous sense of joy ...'
CD Spotlight. Rare Multi-Tasking - Marta Bagratuni plays and sings, heard by Howard Smith. '... music of notable sensitivity and fine tonality.'
CD Spotlight. Dramatic Attitudes - Tchaikovsky piano music, heard by Robert Anderson. 'I am grateful to Nadav Hertzka for much enchantment during this CD.'
Ensemble. Perfect Settings - New Year in Italy, by Giuseppe Pennisi
Verging on Truculence - Mike Wheeler listens to Kazakhstan-born pianist Samson Tsoy
Ensemble. Tonal Refinement - Christmas music from Derby Concert Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Profile. Story Line - Ron Bierman continues his conversation with Nuvi Mehta
Ensemble. Virtuoso Dazzle - Andrei Korobeinikov and the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Moscow, conducted by Nikolay Vinokurov, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. The Highest Artistic Level - Maria Nockin loved The Met's 'Eugene Onegin' streamed live in HD
DVD Spotlight. Cooperative Cauliflower - Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin', reviewed by Robert Anderson. 'The best and worst of this production can be grasped at once ...'
Ensemble. Incredibly Welcome - Roderic Dunnett visits Grange Park Opera for Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin'
Ensemble. Wild and Powerful - Joshua Bell's Tchaikovsky in San Diego impresses Ron Bierman
CD Spotlight. Greatest of Pleasure - Tchaikovsky and Mahler from Goldstone and Haitink, heard by Bill Newman. '... moving in the extreme.'
Andrew Schartmann's Musical Tidbits - Pop Music and the Classical Idiom. Part III: Classical Music and its 8-bit Suit
Ensemble. Vividly Colourful - Nikolaj Znaider conducts the Hallé Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Exhilaratingly Refreshing - Yutaka Sado and the BBC Philharmonic, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Monumental Effect - Three companies combine forces, experienced by Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Deeply Sensitive - Mike Wheeler listens to the European Union Chamber Orchestra
Ensemble. Nothing to Say - Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker', reviewed by Suzanne Torrey
Ensemble. Mother Russia - Works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, enjoyed by Suzanne Torrey
Ensemble. Intertwining Counterpoint - The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A Notable Evening - Music by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Taneyev, reviewed by Malcolm Miller
Ensemble. Angels and Demons - Giuseppe Pennisi visits Sagra Musicale Umbra 2012
Ensemble. The Flame of Music - Malcolm Troup reports on new arrivals from China and Lithuania at the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe's Summer Festival in London
CD Spotlight. Quirkily Playful - Vilde Frang plays Tchaikovsky and Nielsen, heard by Robert Anderson. '... exhilarating to the highest degree.'
Ensemble. The Finest of Them All - The 2012 Hereford Three Choirs Festival, reviewed by Roderic Dunnett
He Played Every Single Note! - Alexei Volodin at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Thrilling Renditions - Martino Tirimo plays Tchaikovsky, reviewed by Malcolm Miller
Ensemble. Superbly Played - Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Beauty of Tone - Danill Trifonov's prizewinner's concert from the Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition, reviewed by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Born to Excel - Recent concerts in London, heard by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Superb Playing - Bill Newman listens to a selection of instrumental chamber music in London
Ensemble. Beautifully Precise - Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Ysaÿe from the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
DVD Spotlight. An Inspiring Tribute - New dance to Tchaikovsky, reviewed by Gerald Fenech. 'Sound and visuals are first-rate.'
Ensemble. A Variety of Events - Giuseppe Pennisi reports on music for the Christmas and New Year period in Italy, for children and for those who love children
Ensemble. Plenty to Bite Into - Derby Concert Orchestra celebrates Christmas, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Wonderful Music - Works by Julian Anderson, Mozart and Tchaikovsky performed by Janine Jansen, Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, enjoyed by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Fiery Impetuosity - Tchaikovsky orchestral music, heard by Robert Anderson. '... a powerful and committed performance ...'
Courage and Finesse - A recital by pianist Arisu Nakao, heard by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Imperious Disdain - Tchaikovsky's 'The Queen of Spades', reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Special Musical Connections - Bill Newman attends a fundraising concert for the Raphael Sommer Foundation
Ensemble. Dance Rhythms - A visit from the Moscow Philharmonic, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Seated on a Cloud - Vadim Gluzman and the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vassily Sinaisky, reviewed by Bill Newman
Ensemble. A fine performance - Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin' at Los Angeles Opera, enjoyed by Maria Nockin
CD Spotlight. Diversely Exhilarating - Cheryl Barker pays tribute to Joan Hammond, heard by Howard Smith. '... four recital items have the ideal accompanist in Timothy Young ...'
Great Energy - Timothy Byram-Wigfield plays the organ at Derby Cathedral and impresses Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Immense Promise - Malcolm Miller reports on the recent Israeli and Bloch music competitions
Ensemble. Achingly Beautiful - Vivaldi's 'La verità in cimento' at Garsington Opera, reviewed by Roderic Dunnett
Profile. All-Involving - Turkish pianist Idil Biret talks to Bill Newman
A Stunning Voice - A recital by Vuyani Mlinde impresses Robert Hugill
CD Spotlight. Unaffected Restraint - Halida Dinova plays music that tells stories, heard by Howard Smith. '... a mesmerising interpreter ...'
CD Spotlight. Striking Power - Leslie Howard plays Rachmaninov, heard by Howard Smith. '... a staggering technique.'
Profile. Humanizing Emotions - American conductor James Conlon talks to Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Vividly Characterised - Alexei Stepanov conducts the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Mahler versus Mahler - Two symphony orchestras are playing Mahler in Rome, by Giuseppe Pennisi
CD Spotlight. Somewhat Lacklustre - Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, heard by Howard Smith. '... a tumultuous, dynamic conclusion.'
CD Spotlight. Lyrical Richness - Arensky Piano Trios, heard by Robert Anderson. 'The Rachmaninov Trio Moscow plays with obvious affection for the music and enviable skill.'
CD Spotlight. Delicate Mastery - Orchestral music by Glazunov, reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... dashingly done ...'
Ensemble. A New Light - Gregory Moomjy listens to Tchaikovsky from Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic
CD Spotlight. A Noteworthy Introduction - Music by Stravinsky for violin and piano, heard by Howard Smith. '... refreshing naturalness ...'
Ensemble. Mix-and-match - Ensembles from the Royal Northern College of Music, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Striking Musicianship - Elena Kuschnerova plays Prokofiev, heard by Howard Smith. '... sparkling, lyrical and appropriately balletic ...'
Ensemble. A Memorable Night - The Israel Camerata Orchestra Jerusalem, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi
Flying Colours - A piano recital by Theresia Renelt, appreciated by Mary Isaac
Ensemble. Pilgrimages of the Soul - Giuseppe Pennisi visits Italy's Sagra Musicale Umbra
Ensemble. Orchestral Firepower - Lawrence Budmen sends his final report from the 2010 Tanglewood Festival
Ensemble. Performance to Cherish - Lawrence Budmen submits a further report from the Tanglewood Festival 2010
Ensemble. Impeccable Standards - Bill Newman's pick of June and July concerts at London's Wigmore Hall
Noteworthy Impressions - Greg Moomjy writes about the art of the outstanding production
CD Spotlight. Spellbinding Artistry - Jonathan Plowright plays Chopin, recommended by Howard Smith. '... positively hair-raising.'
Ensemble. An Ideal Balance - An evening with the Northern Sinfonia and friends delights Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Truly Memorable - A concert of arias at Arizona Opera impresses Maria Nockin
Ensemble. White Hot Intensity - Renée Fleming and the Russian National Orchestra at the Festival of the Arts Boca 2010, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Black Comedy - Prokofiev's 'The Gambler' impresses Robert Hugill
Ensemble. High Voltage - Sol Gabetta joins Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Something Magical - Andris Nelsons conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Crystalline Lightness - A Symphony of the Americas concert, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Too Good to Miss - Robert Hugill was at the first night of Tchaikovsky's 'The Tsarina's Slippers' at Covent Garden
Ensemble. Life-enhancing - Mike Wheeler listens to the Atrium Quartet
Ensemble. A Standout Production - New Zealand Opera's 'Eugene Onegin' impresses Howard Smith
Ensemble. Brilliantly Festive - Mike Wheeler listens to the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra
CD Spotlight. Deft and Brilliant - Sibelius orchestral music, recommended by Robert Anderson. '... in the safest of hands.'
CD Spotlight. Utterly Absorbing - A sampler from Cedille Records, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... top quality standards.'
Bizarre Perception - Alistair Hinton discusses a recent article on English music by David Hamilton
Ask Alice - On gentle Harvey Shapiro and the pressure of New York, with classical music agony aunt Alice McVeigh
Ask Alice - On orchestral horn solos and funding cuts, with classical music agony aunt Alice McVeigh
CD Spotlight. An Undisturbed Evenness - Choral music 'from a Russian cathedral', heard by Paul Sarcich. '... engineered to tranquillity ...'
Life and Other Distractions - Béla Hartmann writes about the relevance of biography to an appreciation of the arts
Ensemble. Lightness and Transparency - New World Symphony, the American orchestral academy, ends its season with an all-Tchaikovsky programme, reported by Lawrence Budmen
CD Spotlight. Consistently Refined - Debussy transcriptions, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... these alternatives are never less than striking ...'
Ensemble. A Superb Team - Haydn, Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky from Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A Delightful Afternoon - Lawrence Budmen listens to the Chameleon Musicians
Ensemble. Full of Vitality - Glinka, Tchaikovsky and Schubert from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Energy and Imagination - Beethoven from Louis Lortie, Kurt Masur and the Cleveland Orchestra, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
CD Spotlight. Fire and Magic - Richard Stoltzman's 'Phoenix in Flight', recommended by Malcolm Tattersall. '... meltingly beautiful ...'
Ensemble. Rousing Performance - Mendelssohn, Ravel, Larsen and Tchaikovsky in South Florida, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
DVD Spotlight. Perfectly Cast - The Sleeping Beauty, recommended by Howard Smith. '... utterly enchanting ...'
Ensemble. Grandly Romantic - Vadim Gluzman on stage with the Boca Raton Symphonia, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
CD Spotlight. Fascinating Rarities - Taneyev string trios, heard by Julian Jacobson. '... a performance of real commitment and assurance ...'
Ensemble. Inner Detail - Beethoven and Tchaikovsky from Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler
Record Box. Great Entertainment - Stokowski conducts ballet music, heard by Patric Standford
CD Spotlight. A Memorable Disc - Vadim Gluzman plays Tchaikovsky and Glazunov, enjoyed by Robert Anderson. 'Vadim Gluzman is a violinist of remarkable gifts.'
Ensemble. The Swinging Spotlight - David Wilkins experiences Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin' in Budapest
Ensemble. An Attractive Freshness - Celebrations in Derby, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Wonderfully Refreshing - Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic on tour impress Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. An Intellectual Force - Piano music by Sergei Taneyev, reviewed by Ron Bierman. 'Performances are expert and loving throughout ...'
Ensemble. Sensitively Attuned - Dvorák, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky from the Burlington Piano Trio, by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Enjoyable Colours - Russian music from Stokowski, reviewed by Patric Standford. 'The recordings do not show half a century of wear ...'
Ensemble. Beautiful Playing - More chamber music from the south west of Ireland, enjoyed by Kelly Ferjutz
Ensemble. Fine Playing - The Czech National Symphony on tour, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Eloquent Performance - A concert by Sinfonia Viva, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A Valentine Extravaganza - Julian Jacobson in the first of his orchestral Valentine Extravaganzas, enjoyed by Malcolm Troup
Ensemble. Zip and Sparkle? - The Munich Symphony Orchestra on tour, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Captivating Delicacy - Igor Tchetuev plays Tchaikovsky, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A masterclass in performing Mozart - A concert by Stephen Hough, Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra delighted Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A Chinese Wunderkind - Nine-year-old Niu Niu's Wigmore Hall début, admired by Malcolm Troup
DVD Spotlight. A Question of Taste - Béjart's 'Nutcracker', reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... bears little relation to Tchaikovsky's music ...'
CD Spotlight. Heightened Intimacy - Russian Romantic songs, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... magically touching musicianship ...'
CD Spotlight. Fine Indeed - Stokowski symphonic transcriptions, recommended by Howard Smith. '... an unqualified testament to Stokowski's magic.'
Ensemble. Important Revelations - A gala concert presented by Arizona Opera, reviewed by Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Delicacy and Tenderness - The Russian State Philharmonic in Derby, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Style and concept - Two young pianists of outstanding promise, by Bill Newman
Ensemble. A fine sound - A concert by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Artistic vision - Russian artists bring soul to Shostokovich, by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Symphonic structure - The Hallé Orchestra plays Vaughan Williams in Derby, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Contrasting pianists - by Bill Newman
Timings - thoughts about the quirkiness of some of music's hidden secrets - The Clarens Connection, by Jennifer Paull
Ensemble. A musical homecoming - New World Symphony alumni return to Miami Beach for a special concert, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
CD Spotlight. Interlinking resonances - A song recital by Malena Ernman, reviewed by Robert Hugill. '... lively and charmingly refreshing ...'
CD Spotlight. Ravishing colloquy - Orchestral music by Tchaikovsky, reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... sumptuous and highly disciplined playing ...
CD Spotlight. Valued archives - Stokowski and the classic Columbias, reviewed by Patric Standford. '... a powerful performance ...'
Ensemble. Glistening quality - Christian Tetzlaff plays Brahms, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Grand guignol - Tchaikovsky's 'The Enchantress' at Grange Park, reviewed by Robert Hugill
Ensemble. Emotional sound - Tess Crebbin and Sissy von Kotzebue review a Ben Heppner recital in Munich
Ensemble. An eclectic program - Lawrence Budmen is impressed by Canadian/Armenian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian
Provocative thoughts, from Patric Standford - Russophiles
CD Spotlight. Life and strife - Fritz Reiner's Tchaikovsky, reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... Reiner's no-nonsense approach avoids any hint of emotional excess.'
Ensemble. An imposing start - David Thompson was at the First Night of the BBC Proms in London.
CD Spotlight. An indelible impression - Ewa Podles sings Russian songs and arias, appreciated by Maria Nockin. '... incredibly well done ...'
CD Spotlight. Tender longing - Daniil Shtoda sings Russian songs, reviewed by David Wilkins. '... wonderfully expressive ...'
CD Spotlight. Pointing the way - A chamber-music quality 'Nutcracker', with Ron Bierman. '... closer to what Tchaikovsky had in mind.'
Ensemble. An ambitious concert - Rex Harley listens to Tchaikovsky, Lutoslawski and Szymanowski in Wales
Ensemble. Compelling musicianship - A recital by Ildikó Iván and Tamás Vásáry, reported by Malcolm Miller
Ensemble. Hour of Magic - Malcolm Miller is enthralled by seldom-heard East European music
Unbreakable spirit - Galina Aleykina reports on a concert at the Ukraine National Opera House in memory of the events of September 11th
Ensemble - imperial grandeur. Roderic Dunnett is impressed with a new production of 'The Queen of Spades'
MV3, with Gordon Rumson and Keith Bramich - M&V's monthly visit to the world of online music investigates the 'avant-garde'
MV3, with Gordon Rumson and Keith Bramich - M&V's monthly visit to the world of online music
Record box - Trawling for treasure. Bill Newman seeks out Golden Age performers now reinstated on CD. BBC Legends and Beecham
Second sight. Music with Wilfrid Mellers. - Private passion and public hauteur. Reporting on Opera North's current production of 'Eugene Onegin'
Planning your collection - William Primrose -
Summer Opera Reviews - Roderic Dunnett looks back at a thumping good summer for opera festivals in Britain and Ireland. Read from part 1 - Castleward, Wexford and Stowe
Dance of death - Roderic Dunnett marvels at Welsh National Opera's 'Queen of Spades'