Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Symphonies

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky[a 1] (English: /ˈkɒfski/ chy-KOF-skee;[1]Russian: Пётр Ильич Чайковский[a 2], tr. Pyótr Ilʹyích Chaykóvskiy, IPA: [pʲɵtr ɪlʲˈjitɕ tɕɪjˈkofskʲɪj] (About this soundlisten); 7 May 1840 [O.S. 25 April] – 6 November [O.S. 25 October] 1893[a 3]), was a Russian composer of the romantic period, whose works are among the most popular music in the classical
repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a
lasting impression internationally, bolstered by his appearances as a
guest conductor in Europe and the United States. He was honored in 1884
by Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension.

Although musically precocious, Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant.
There was scant opportunity for a musical career in Russia at that time
and no system of public music education. When an opportunity for such
an education arose, he entered the nascent Saint Petersburg Conservatory,
from which he graduated in 1865. The formal Western-oriented teaching
he received there set him apart from composers of the contemporary nationalist movement embodied by the Russian composers of The Five,
with whom his professional relationship was mixed. Tchaikovsky's
training set him on a path to reconcile what he had learned with the
native musical practices to which he had been exposed from childhood.
From this reconciliation he forged a personal but unmistakably Russian
style—a task that did not prove easy. The principles that governed
melody, harmony and other fundamentals of Russian music ran completely
counter to those that governed Western European music; this seemed to
defeat the potential for using Russian music in large-scale Western
composition or for forming a composite style, and it caused personal
antipathies that dented Tchaikovsky's self-confidence. Russian culture
exhibited a split personality, with its native and adopted elements
having drifted apart increasingly since the time of Peter the Great. This resulted in uncertainty among the intelligentsia about the country's national identity—an ambiguity mirrored in Tchaikovsky's career.

Despite his many popular successes, Tchaikovsky's life was punctuated by personal crises and depression. Contributory factors included his early separation from his mother for boarding school followed by his mother's early death, the death of his close friend and colleague Nikolai Rubinstein,
and the collapse of the one enduring relationship of his adult life,
which was his 13-year association with the wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck who was his patron even though they never actually met each other. His homosexuality,
which he kept private, has traditionally also been considered a major
factor, though some musicologists now downplay its importance.
Tchaikovsky's sudden death at the age of 53 is generally ascribed to cholera; there is an ongoing debate as to whether cholera was indeed the cause of death, and whether his death was accidental or self-inflicted.

While his music has remained popular among audiences, critical
opinions were initially mixed. Some Russians did not feel it was
sufficiently representative of native musical values and expressed
suspicion that Europeans accepted the music for its Western elements. In
an apparent reinforcement of the latter claim, some Europeans lauded
Tchaikovsky for offering music more substantive than base exoticism
and said he transcended stereotypes of Russian classical music. Others
dismissed Tchaikovsky's music as "lacking in elevated thought,"
according to longtime New York Times music critic Harold C. Schonberg, and derided its formal workings as deficient because they did not stringently follow Western principles.

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