Peter Tchaikovsky: Biography

Peter Tchaikovsky was a complex man, beginning a career in law to enter the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music. Best remembered for his Nutcracker Suite, his music was shaped by odd circumstances that led him to use the emotional extremes of his life in his compositions.

Peter Tchaikovsky is the famous Russian composer who created the Nutcracker Suite. That is the Tchaikovsky remembered by the world. But did you know that before he studied music, he first studied the law? Did you know that he had an odd friendship with a wealthy widow - a friendship to which he consented knowing of the stipulation that they never meet? Did you know he died because he drank unboiled water? These are the lesser known facts about the well known musician.

Even as a boy, Peter Tchaikovsky was said to be emotional, intense, and complex. From his earliest years, Peter's emotions spanned the gamut from extremely happy to intensely depressed. History recalls that Peter Tchaikovsky was a headstrong, impetuous youth. The complex boy became a complex man.

Brilliantly intellectual, Tchaikovsky at first opted to study law. However, well into his law studies, Tchaikovsky determined that the profession was an ill suited choice for someone of his emotional temperament. Fortunately, Peter Tchaikovsky was also talented musically - gifted, in fact - and he was accepted into the Conservatory of St. Petersburg to study music.



Tchaikovsky mastered the fundamentals of composition quickly and began writing original compositions within months of entering the conservatory. It was as if he were driven to write, so many hours did he dedicate to the task. But considering his temperament, it was characteristic of Tchaikovsky - the intensity and the perfectionism. In fact, Tchaikovsky was so intent that his music be his best that if he did not consider a piece perfect, he tore it up.

In 1876, a wealthy widow named Nadejda von Meck heard the music written by the young Tchaikovsky. She was so impressed by it that she offered to financially underwrite his composition efforts. Her only stipulation was that they correspond only in writing and that they never meet in person. Tchaikovsky consented, though the stipulation was odd. And despite the boundary the widow von Meck had set, the friendship flourished. For fourteen years, Tchaikovsky poured out his heart in his letters to the widow, telling her his hopes, frustrations, impressions, and even disappointments. And for fourteen years, her financial assistance allowed Tchaikovsky the freedom to compose. With time, however, Tchaikovsky became a brilliant success and he no longer needed his benefactress's assistance. He never regretted the friendship, though odd in nature, as it had provided him with a source of refreshment and sound advice. The widow von Meck had encouraged him to take the setbacks and successes of his life and use them to produce majestic music in triumph and haunting melodies in the sad times. Successful both in composition and controlling his emotions, Tchaikovsky had at last become a happy man.

Music came first with Tchaikovsky, not only in life, but in death. Engrossed in composition, Tchaikovsky drank water that he had not boiled, a very dangerous thing in those days in Russia. He died of cholera that he contracted as a result of the unclean water. Legend tells us that the piece he was writing remained unfinished.

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