Southbank Sinfonia | Tchaikovsky


PASSPORT: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

As the second of six children, Tchaikovsky’s parents very much hoped that he would grow out of wanting to be a musician and become something sensible such as a clerk in the civil service in Russia where he was born and grew up. Fortunately for us, he disappointed his parents and went on to become one of the greatest composers of all time. Sorry Mum and Dad Tchaikovsky!

Tchaikovsky lived during the 1800s, which is often referred to as the Romantic Period. It became fashionable for composers to express the deepest of human emotions in their music, from great joy to deep sadness and despair to elation. Tchaikovsky was a master of Romantic composition and his life was certainly full of highs and lows for him to put into his music. In fact, he suggested that it was music which helped to keep him sane with all the things happening in his life:

“Truly, there would be reason to go mad were it not for music!”

This ability to tell emotional stories so well in his music was probably one of the reasons why he was so good at writing music for the ballet, something that was very popular in Russia. Have you ever heard of Swan Lake or The Nutcracker? Both these famous ballets with music by Tchaikovsky are still performed every single year by all the best ballet companies around the world.

Hear one of Tchaikovsky’s favourite pieces, his Serenade for Strings, in the video below:

Or for something quite different, but written at exactly the same time, what do you think of the ending of his 1812 Overture? Loud, huh?!

Find out about more composers here.