Tschaikowsky, Peter Iljitch

1840-1893

The national music of Russia, which during the last quarter of a century has made such marvelous progress, may be divided into two great classes: the music of those composers who assert a passionate nationalism in their work, such as Moszkowski, Balakirev, Cui, Moussorgsky, Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazounov; and the music of those who, employing Russian themes and motifs, treat them according to rules of composition and harmony of the classicists of other nations. Of this latter class Tschaikowsky is the greatest representative. His writings are full of the wild melancholy, the morbidness and passion so characteristic of his cultured but primitively emotional nation, yet they display a masterly use of musical technique.

Tschaikowsky was born on May 7, 1840, at Votinsk, in Vaitka, a province of the Ural District, where his father served as engineer at the Imperial mines % In 1850, when the elder Tschaikowsky assumed the directorship of the Technological Institute, he moved his family to St. Petersburg and placed his son in the School of Jurisprudence, where he finished his training, then obtained an appointment in the Ministry of Justice when only nineteen. Two years later the Conservatory of Music was established and he began attending classes in harmony. In 1862 he had fully determined to become a musician, and, resigning his government position, he entered the Conservatory as a regular music student, studying composition under Anton Rubinstein, and counterpoint and harmony under Professor Zaremba, until 1865, when he received the prize medal for a cantata on Schiller's Ode to Joy, and was graduated from the school. In 1866 Nicolai Rubinstein offered him the position of professor of harmony of the Conservatory of Moscow, which he had founded two years before and at which institution Tschaikowsky was a successful teacher during twelve years. In 1871 he went abroad, and in 1872 he published his Text-Book on Harmony and began acting as critic on two Moscovite papers, journalistic work which he continued to do until 1876. In 1877 his chivalrous nature led him into a most unhappy marriage with a young woman who had declared her love for him, thus working upon his pity and tenderness. Although he was separated from his wife almost immediately after his marriage, the experience made a deep impression upon his sensitive temperament and he wrote to a friend, " On the whole, I am robust but, as regards my soul, there is a wound there that will never heal. I think I am homme fini." Finding it impossible to remain in Moscow, he resigned his post at the Conservatory and from that time forward devoted himself to composition. He sought to forget his unhappiness in travel, going to Venice and spending some time in southern Italy and Switzerland. He lived at St. Petersburg and Kiew until 1885, then he took a country-house at Klin and made his home there during the remainder of his life. He made a long concert tour through Germany during 1888 and conducted his Serenade for stringed orchestra at a London Philharmonic concert on March 22 of that year, and in 1891 came to America and, at the dedication of the new Carnegie Music Hall, conducted his own compositions. In 1893 he went to England, where he played at a Philharmonic concert and received the degree of Doctor of Music from Cambridge University, on which occasion he directed the initial English performance of his Francesca da Rimini. Soon after his return to Russia he contracted cholera from drinking unfiltered Neva water, and died on Oct. 12, 1893.