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Of Pain and Music: Biography of Pyotr Tchaikovsky
By Beth Beutler
1 For some, the blessing of being a gifted artist is tempered with the challenge of a life full of conflict and emotion. Such was the case with composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, whose life and music were a mixture of beauty and pain. He is one of the most performed composers of the late 19th century and perhaps most well-known for The Nutcracker Suite, a ballet performed often at Christmastime.
2 Tchaikovsky was born in 1840, either on April 25, or May 7, depending on what style of calendar is being referred to. Early on, his musical giftedness became evident, and he even composed a song at the age of 4. He began piano lessons at age 5 and quickly became better than his teacher.
3 Tchaikovsky was said to be a passionate and sensitive person, and it is reported that once, when left at school, he ran after his mother's carriage as she was leaving. When she passed away when he was 14, it was a very difficult time for him. His first serious effort at writing music was the composition of a waltz in her memory.
4 As he grew into adulthood, he was advised to find regular work with the ministry of justice. He worked there for about three years, but then discovered an opportunity for music lessons through the Russian Musical Society. He studied from 1862-65 and after graduation became a professor of harmony, composition, and music history.
5 While studying with Nikolai Zaremba through this society, Tchaikovsky was recruited to be part of "The Mighty Handful," also known as "The Five." He later worked with one of the founders of "The Five," Mily Balakirev, to create the overture for Romeo and Juliet.
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