Arguably the most famous Russian composer, Peter Tchaikovsky, born Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on May 7, 1840, created some of the most iconic symphonies in musical history. Though he started playing piano at age five, much of his adult life had been dedicated to working in the civil service, fulfilling his parent’s wishes for him. However, during this time, he became more and more fascinated with music and composition, and it was clear that his mundane position would simply not suffice.
At the age of 21, he started taking lessons at the Russian Musical Society; soon after, he began studying at the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he also gave private lessons.
- In 1863, Tchaikovsky was teaching professionally at the Moscow Conservatory.
- “First Symphony” was performed in 1868 to great praise
- Tchaikovsky's opera, “The Voyevoda” received little attention in 1869.
- By 1874, his “Second Symphony” was well-liked, but his operas “Oprichnik” and “Vakula the Smith” were met with praise and criticism, respectively.
It was clear Tchaikovsky’s greatest successes would come from instrumental compositions: “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor” and “Symphony No. 3 in D Major” were met with great acclaim. By 1878, Tchaikovsky ended his tenure at the Moscow Conservatory so he could focus on his own compositions, creating some of the most beloved works of his career. “The Sleeping Beauty” would be created by 1890 and “The Nutcracker” by 1892, one year prior to his death, cementing him in history as one of the world’s greatest composers.