Tschaikowsky, Peter Iljitch

He was a man of peculiarly sensitive temperament, quiet, gentle and inclined to melancholy, but withal manly  and firm. One feels that his music is an unusually true expression of the thoughts and emotions of its composer. His genius finds its best means of expression in orchestral music, in which division of composition he has written six symphonies; six orchestral suites; his Serenade and Elegy in memory of Samarin for string orchestra; six or seven overtures; and a number of orchestral pieces for special occasions, among them the well-known 1812 Overture. His symphonies may be divided into two periods: the first three belonging to the earlier, and the latter three to the maturer period of his work. The first three, written on Russian motifs, are. interesting and original, full of the strongly marked rhythm and unusual harmonies of the national folk-songs. Indeed the Second Symphony is usually considered the most thoroughly national of all Tschaikowsky's music. The latter three symphonies are among his greatest compositions, and do much toward establishing him among great musicians. Tremendous in conception, masterly in treatment, they bear witness to the passionateness and morbidness of the master's nature and portray graphically the struggles of the deeply wounded and sensitive soul. Indeed the Sixth or Pathetique Symphony has come to be the epitome of melancholy. Of the other orchestral music, the Third Orchestral Suite in G major is famous for its beautiful air and variations, and the composer himself seems tO| have been partial to this piece of' music. The Fourth Orchestral Suite, or Mozartiana, has for the themes of its movements a gigue, a  minuet, a prayer and air with variations from Mozart, whom Tschaikowsky greatly admired. The Casse Noisette Suite is another exceedingly popular composition and is charmingly fantastic and graceful, with a fairy lightness and gracefulness which shows the composer in a happy mood. In descriptive music Tschaikowsky has written three excellent overtures, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, and Francesca da Rimini, all of them rich in originality and displaying wonderful handling of orchestral effects. The Italian Capriccio shows the composer's versatility and power of assimilating and composing in a foreign style, and is full of joyousness and melody. The 1812 Overture with its tremendous orchestra and various outside aids of bells and cannon, seems a departure from good taste and true musicianship.

All hjs life Tschaikowsky was interested in dramatic composition, although his works in this line are few and little known. Of the ten operas he wrote, Undine was lost, and on its recovery several years later, was burnt by its author, and of Voievoda only the overture remains in its original form. The Oprichnik, Eugene Onegin and Mazeppa, all written to Russian librettos, have probably endured longest. In 1892 Eugene Onegin was performed at the Olympic Theatre in London. In the composition of chamber-music or music for solo instruments, Tschaikowsky worked along lines most uncongenial to him. He constantly demanded of his instruments more variety of tone-quality than they were capable of producing. In spite of this, however, he wrote three string quartets; a string sextet; a trio for piano, violin and violoncello; and the piano sonata in G major so often played in concert; about ten piano and violin concertos and solos, of which the piano concerto in B flat minor and the violin concerto in D major are often played. Tschaikowsky wrote much other piano-music, usually in sets of several pieces, but much of this is too trivial to deserve special notice. The set entitled The Seasons is well known, and in the set for children there are some charming little pieces. There are also the sonata for piano and the Dumka, op. 59, both serious and carefully written compositions. Tschaikowsky wrote many songs, some of which are of unusual worth, being the perfect expression of mood or feeling. They cover the greatest variety of subjects and range from passionate love-songs to the terrible Woe Is Me, and to cradle-songs of infinite beauty and tenderness. He has chosen his lyrics from the poetry of Goethe, Heine, Tolstoi, Grekoff and Plechtcheeff, and others and in many cases has written admirable settings to the words. Tschaikowsky entered into many branches of composition and achieved some notable work along several lines. In spite of the profound and sometimes tempestuous melancholy of his writings, there is a dignity about them, a control and self-respect which place them thoroughly within the realm of true music.