An Outline of his life


Tchaikovsky was born in a town near the southeast of Moscow on 7 May, 1840. He died in St. Petersburg on 6 Nov 1893.

His father, who owned an iron mine, had wanted Tchaikovsky to study law. So he was sent to St. Petersburg to study at the School of Jurisprudence.

Tchaikovsky hated all these arrangements. The forced parting from his mother at the age of eight, when he was sent to boarding school, had marked a life of emotional torment. He has then grown to be more withdrawn over the years, which was a big part of the reason why he had difficulty in forming relationships.

Piano Lessons
Tchaikovsky was given piano lessons as a child and his talent emerged quickly. He continued his part-time music studies at St Petersburg Conservatoire, which was a public school of music, until he was 22 years old. Then he abandoned law to become a full-time music student, and studied with Anton Rubinstein. It was only 3 years later that his first public performance of his own compositions took place.

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Anton's brother, Nikolai, recruits Tchaikovsky to teach music theory at the recently founded Moscow Conservatory. Nikolai, who was a pianist and the conductor of the Russian Musical Society Orchestra, introduced the composer to the higher social circles of Moscow.  He also
introduced many of Tchaikovsky’s works, including the first four symphonies, the Romeo and Juliet fantasy overture.
One of which whom Nikolai introduced the young composer’s work to was Madame von Meck, a wealthy widow whose husband had made a fortune on the Russian railways. She commissioned Tchaikovsky to compose music for her in 1877.

She fell in love with his music, whose emotional sensitivity struck a chord with her own intense personality.  She wrote enthusiastically to Tchaikovsky and he responded warmly.  They had since, conducted a strange relationship by letters for over 13 years.

Their relationship existed only on paper, and this suited Tchaikovsky perfectly. Dadame von Meck granted him an annual salary of 6000 roubles, provided they never met. This was approximately equivalent to GBP 50,000 or SGD 120,000 in today’s currency, an amount enough to live in comfort. Meanwhile Tchaikovsky was gaining his reputationas a composer.

Love Letters

In 1877, at 37, Tchaikovsky received a love letter from Antonina
Milyukova, She flooded him with passionate love letters and threatened to commit suicide if they did not meet. They were married the same year.

However, their marriage only lasted for a short two months. Tchaikovsky’s fear of human contact was further aggravated, he even shrank away from his wife on their honeymoon, finding her physically repulsive.
It is believed that Tchaikovsky
insisted a plantonic marriage because of his homosexuality.

Tchaikovsky found solace in music, as usual and he deliberately adhere to a strict routine which, according to him, to keep him sane. He was at his piano by 9:30am to begin his composition, then he would went for a walk, reflect on his work and came back later to make amendments. He would end his day with a game of cards and a mug of whisky as sleeping aid.

However, in 1890, Madame von Meck was bankrupt and she stopped the salary and letters out of the blue. This sudden end of correspondence of nearly fourteen years, had once again, shattered Tchaikovsky.

Tchaikovsky died at the age of 53, in 1893. He d
ied in suspicious circumstance and was buried in St Petersburg, 6 Nov, 1893. It was reported that he died from cholera after drinking contaminated water, but others suggested he was forced to take poison to avoid scandal. The real reason of his death remains unresolved.

His music mirrored his life, both full of contradiction. It was likely due to the emotions that he had supressed within himself all his life, by repressed homosexuality, and his extreme fluctuation of emotions.

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~ Written by Boon Sin Ler