Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Famous Composers in History

Commemorative statue of Pyotr Hyich Tchaikovsky. Editorial credit: Pavel_D /
Commemorative statue of Pyotr Hyich Tchaikovsky. Editorial credit: Pavel_D /

Pyotr Hyich Tchaikovsky, also known as Peter Ilichi Tchaikovsky in English, was a Russian composer whose works are among the most popular music of the classical era, though his composition was of the romantic period. Tchaikovsky was the first composer of Russian origin whose work made a lasting impression internationally. His international reputation was propelled when he appeared as guest conductor in the US and in Europe. Emperor Alexander II honored Tchaikovsky in 1884 and gave him a lifelong pension.

Early Life

Tchaikovsky was the second born out of six siblings in Vyatka, Russia. His date of birth was May 7, 1840. His father worked as a metal works manager and a mine inspector and was called Ilya. Tchaikovsky took piano lessons when he was five years old and showed talent and interest in music, but his parents expected him to work as a civil servant. At the time he was ten years old, he joined St. Petersburg’s Imperial School of Jurisprudence. His mother, Alexandra, died of cholera in 1854 when he was 14 years old.


In 1859, he fulfilled his parents wish by taking a clerical position with the Ministry of Justice. At the age of 21, he enrolled at the Russian Musical society to learn on music lessons and later joined the recently established Conservatory school in St. Petersburg, therefore becoming among the first students in the school to take composition lessons. Tchaikovsky also offered private music lessons to other students in the institute, and in 1863 he went on to join Moscow Conservatory, a professor of harmony.

Major Contributions

Tchaikovsky was a prolific Russian composer, and his songs have had great public appeal because of their open-hearted melodies, tuneful, picturesque orchestration, and impressive harmonies that evoke an insightful, emotional response. His compositions include 20 choral works, 7 symphonies, 11 operas, 4 cantatas, 5 suites, 3 piano concertos, 3 ballets, 3 string quartets, violin concerto, a string sextet, 11 overtures which was made of 8 single movements programmatic orchestra works and 3 overtures, and more than 100 other songs and piano pieces.


Initially, Tchaikovsky’s composition was criticized, but it came to be accepted later. Most Russians at the time thought his music was not nationalistic enough. There was also the impression from some quarters that he did not strictly follow sonata form and was relying on arranging junks of thematic groups and tonalities, which was observed as a weakness and not a sign of originality. Besides, his mother died when he was still young which was challenging for Tchaikovsky. He also had a troublesome marriage life when he abandoned his wife weeks after their wedding. The marriage was described as a disaster, and a mismatch both sexually and psychologically. Tchaikovsky fled the country.

Death and Legacy

On November 6th, 1893, Tchaikovsky died though the cause of his death is not apparent. Some historians argue that his death was a result of cholera while others say he committed suicide. He incorporated Russian folk songs including other native elements of music to create his original composition, which was deeply personal in style. He made a profound impact on symphony and programmatic music that transformed Berlioz’s and Liszt’s achievement.


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