Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Most Popular Romantic Composer

Historical Period: Romantic
Nationality: Russian
Born: May 7, 1840 A.D. in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Vyatka
Died:  Nov. 6, 1893 A.D. in St. Petersburg
Contemporaries: Johannes Brahms, Camille Saint-Saens, Antonin Dvorak, Claude Debusey, Gustav Mahler, Edvard, Grieg, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, Gabriel Faure, Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Modest Mussrogsky, Cesar Cui, Alexander Borodin, Mily Balakirev
Specialist Genres: ballet music and symphonies
Major Works: The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Violin Concerto, Piano Concertos, 6 symphonies, 1812 Overture.

     Have you ever heard of The Nutcracker? Or Sleeping Beauty? Or even Swan Lake? Most people have, but they may not know much about the man behind the music. The man is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and he was born in Votkinsk, a small town in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Tchaikovsky lived during stirring times: the United States of America was in the Great Depression, Samuel Morse invented “Morse Code”, David Livingstone went as a missionary to Africa, lower and upper China united, Crawford Long uses first anesthetic (ether), Edgar Allen Poe came out with The Raven and Other Poems, and Charles H. Spurgeon impacted England and America with his great sermons from the Bible. 

It was in these tremendous times that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky played the piano and wrote lots of cool classical music with a Russian twist. Alongside ballet music, Tchaikovsky wrote symphonies, the 1812 Overture, a violin concerto and piano concertos. Tchaikovsky had what many composers living in his time did not: “a sweet, inexhaustible, supersensuous fund of melody.”[1]

His Life & Music

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840.  From a young age Tchaikovsky had an interest in music, but his parents wanted him to study law, just like G.F. Handel. Tchaikovsky was an obedient son and went to law school, but he also kept pursuing music. Eventually,  Tchaikovsky went to the St. Petersburg Conservatory to study music composition and the piano, which led him to be considered one of the most popular classical music composers of all time.

After the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Tchaikovsky was given the great gift of marriage, but he did not treasure marriage. Tchaikovsky divorced his wife a few weeks after they were married, choosing to run away from her and focused on his music. Music was more important to Tchaikovsky, too bad he did not choose to love both music and his wife. He did write a lot of beautiful music, symphonies and piano concertos and a violin concerto and ballet music and tone poems and more. In 1891, Tchaikovsky even came to America to conduct his music for people. And in 1884, Emperor Alexander III and even got a pension (money for retirement). People really like his ballet music, his symphonies and even the concertos for its beauty, deep emotion, lyricism in the Russian style.  As two historians put it, “The music which this unhappy man created was gorgeously colored, sometimes delicate and fairy-like, sometimes almost hysterical in its tragic passion.”[2]

[1]Harold C. Schonberg, The Lives of the Great Composers, revised edition (New York: Norton Company, 1981), p. 377.
[2]Katherine B. Shippen and Anca Seidlova, The Heritage of Music (New York: Viking Press, 1963), p. 204.

Copyright © 2013 Mircea & Daniyela Ionescu. All rights reserved.

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