July 01, 2000

The Incomparable Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born May 7, 1840, in Votkinsk, Vyatka region. His father was a civil servant, as was his father’s father. Indeed, Tchaikovsky himself was trained to become, and worked for a time as a clerk in the Ministry of Justice. But, of course, music was his true passion.

While not a child prodigy, Tchaikovsky’s love of music began early. In a telling biographical detail, at six the future composer ran to his room after the family was treated to a piano recital by a visiting musician. His nanny, Fanny, later looked in on him and found him hysterical. “Oh, the music, the music,” he cried. “Save me from it, Fanny, save me! It’s here ... in here,” – striking his forehead – “and it won’t leave me in peace.”

The second eldest in a family of five brothers and one sister, Tchaikovsky had very close relationships with most of his immediate family, but especially with his two younger brothers—Modest and Anatoly—who were twins. It would be Modest who would preserve much of the composer’s legacy for posterity, particularly his home and his papers (which, during his lifetime, he censored to prevent personal aspects of Tchaikovsky’s life—namely his homosexuality—from becoming public).

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