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Born in May of 1840 in Kamsko-Votkinsk Russia, Peter Tchaikovsky has made huge contributions to the world of classical music. “Unbridled Emotion” is what would best describe his music. The deep sensitivity that is saturated in his music produces lush melodies that entertain listeners in all parts of the world to date. Tchaikovsky’s private life was marred by turmoil from the very start. As a young man Tchaikovsky encountered problems after the demise of his mother when he was 14. This led to him being deal with the poor atmosphere that he was subjected to at the military boarding school he was forced to attend. Peter shied away from the cold and harsh cold war as a young boy and found consolation in music. On hearing Mozart’s Don Giovanni, he decided to devote his entire life to music. In his personal words, “How can one be able to express the indescribable sensations one experiences when writing an instrument based composition with an indefinite subject? It is a majorly lyrical procedure, a musical declaration of the soul that unburdens it through the sounds in the same way a lyric poet would express himself in his/her art of poetry. After abandoning his position in civil service, Tchaikovsky got into the St. Petersburg art school so as to study under the instruction of Anton Rubinstein. Fortunately, despite his father’s disapproval of his musical career, he never interfered with his wishes. He was fond of famous poet Hene’s famous words 'where words depart off, music starts' (DiSilvio, 2010). Peter Tchaikovsky was a famous composer whose work continues to impact the world of arts to date in its variuos aspects.

Early Life inMusic

Asa student, the composer wrote ‘The storm’ around the year 1864. Later on in 1868, through the directive of Mily Balakirev, Tchaikovsky composed Fatum. Tchaikovsky was very pleased with this work but Balakirev who was the director on Mighty Five was not. He openly criticized Tchaikovsky’s work for an apparent lack of continuity in addition to its lack of natural flow. Mily pointed out Les Préludes, which was France Liszt’s work as being a good example of a successful piece of work which led to Tchaikovsky’s destruction of his work. In a period of a year, he composed the famous sounds of the poem ‘Romeo and Juliet’ under the nurture of his instructor Mily (Brown, 1885).

Having a personal profile that described him as an emotionally unstable; Tchaikovsky married a woman he hardly knew in 1877. This was considered as a failed and desperate attempt to cover his homosexuality that is claimed to have caused him a nervous breakdown. Some modern scholars consider his homosexuality as having played a major role in his untimely death in 1893. Although originally claimed to have died from cholera which he contacted from taking tainted water, substantial research conducted a century later suggested that he may have poisoned himself deliberately as a result of being forced by “court of honor’ as a form of punishment (Brown, 2007).

This was due to his involvement with a younger gentleman of aristocratic descent. This was seen as unnatural by the community which he tried hard to hide his secret from, to an extent of marrying a woman he hardly knew. The composer received financial maintenance from a rich widow named Nadezhda von Meck between 1877 and 1890 due to her vast admiration of him despite not being acquainted to each other. Later on in 1893, the University of Cambridge bestowed him with the honor of an honorary Doctor of Music.

Tchaikovsky’s Music

Tchaikovsky was known for a wide array of compositions that he successfully completed and performed in his life. His inspiration was the works of other performers and composers such as Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner whose work motivated and bewildered him at the same time. After seeing Wagner’s piece titled “The Ring,” he lamented thathe ‘came away in with a lot of doubt about Wagner’s outlook of the opera, getting really exhausted and at the same time with a bigger zeal to continue in his study of music’ (DiSilvio, 2010). From then on, Tchaikovsky felt captivated in a way and at the same time attracted to the Dionysian aspects of its dynamic emotional capability despite being initially intimidated by the same. Having compiled a broad array of works which range from piano solo creations, symphonies, operas and chamber production of concertos, Tchaikovsky has definitely made impact in the world music as a grand master of the later Romantic era (Brown, 1885).

Manfred Symphony (Concertgebouw Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly)

The Manfred Symphony written in B minor is a type of programmatic symphony that Tchaikovsky composed by the end of September 1885. The composition is based on a poem named ‘Manfred’ which was written in 1817 by Lord Byron and is the only one of Tchaikovsky’s composition that was not numbered after completion. In E-flat, the composition is described as a conjectural piece that was left uncompleted by the creator. In addition, it was completed amidst the 4Th and 5Th Symphonies (César, 1917). Just like in the case of Romeo and Juliet, Tchaikovsky created the Manfred Symphony under the watchful eye of the talented composer Balakirev Mily.

Mily provided him with a program that was written by the famous critic Vladimir Stasov. The program had been kept by the composer who had sent it to a couple of other composers who found it difficult to use until Tchaikovsky successfully used it to create the symphony. The Manfred is the only programmatic work by the famous composer as considered by different movements (César, 1917). The composer initially considered it one of his best works. In later years, the composition was greeted with mixed feelings by listeners and critics due to its complexity and length. On listening to the symphony, I was quite impressed by its detail such as the heightened frequency and its rareness in concert halls. It was quite different and detailed from what concerts are made of.

The composition begins with the picture of a bare and simple form of a free mountain folk, Manfred. Then it opens to a siciliana, and a three note call out to a hunter and the return of an opening theme. Later, a brief and pleasant dance that is lively is followed by an outburst of agitation. This pastoral opening theme is then followed by a decorative, the hunters sounding of his horn and finally the fading of the music. I found this natural set and harmonized symphony very relaxing which in my though would be the intended need of the composer due to his disturbed background (Brown, 2007).

Romeo & Juliet/Nutcracker Suite (Cleveland Orchestra/ Lorin Maazel)

This composition is an orchestra piece of work by Tchaikovsky. This composition takes the style of Overture Fantasy and is set based on the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Maes, Arnold & Pomeran, 2002). Tchaikovsky was inspired by Shakespeare’s work just like many other composers such as Prokofiev and Berlioz. The composer did not number this piece either. Styled in a fantasy theme, the design is that of a symphonic poem that is created in a sonata form. It starts with an epilogue and is based on three strands of Shakespeare’s story in F-sharp minor followed by a suggestion by Mily Balakirev that presents a saintly Friar Laurence.

This presentation creates an expression of Russian Orthodoxy and also forbids doom from a low string (Holden, 1995). The main theme expressed in the overture is at the same time the theme song for the television act “Passionate Kiss” which puts more emphasis on the passion expressed within the performance. This performance creates a feeling of romance and passion and its resultant outcomes. The pure display of passion was amazing to experience throughout the performance and at the same time entertaining.

Sleeping Beauty suites & Swan Lake

This composition is a ballet about the fairy tale, sleeping beauty and is presented as a prologue made up of three acts. The first act was performed in the year 1890 accompanied by the music composed by Tchaikovsky though his Opus 66 (Brillarelli, 1995). The next was performed in 1889 which was the second of his three ballets. The original choreography for this piece was the brainchild of Marius Petipa and was later modified by another set artist, Ivan Vsevolozhsky during its St. Petersburg premier. This piece of work is regarded in the performing arts as one of the finest of Tchaikovsky’s works of art and is a famous ballet to date.

The ballet puts its focus on two conflicting ideas, forces of good and that of the evil (Brillarelli, 1995). The good is represented by the lilac Fairy and the evil by a carabosse representation. The two are an important link to the plot of the ballet. Act three takes and entirely different turn from the initial two performances as it puts emphasis on individual characters in the different court dances. This piece of art painted a wonderful dreamy world of fairytales that was brilliant to enjoy. At the same time, it brings out the ideologies of good and evil that serves as a brilliant lesson of morality.


Peter Tchaikovsky is a well known house hold name in terms of the performing arts and more so in ballet. His vast contributions continue to be used even in the current performing arts. He is a clear example of solace found in music. Just like he sought solace from his distressed life, many more people find the same in good music. He drew a lot of inspiration and directive from the famous composer Mily Balakirev who seemed to influence a lot of the direction his music assumed. A lot is left to be asked as to what direction his music would have taken ad he lived longer or even till now. However, his contribution in the music industry is still highly appreciated and recognized.

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