Born in May of 1849, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the second oldest of six children. He started piano lessons at the age of 5 and showed great promise
However, his parents had always urged Pyotr to work in a civil service position and after his mother passed away, he took a position with the Ministry of Justice as a bureau clerk and held that post for four years. It was during this time he fell in love with music.
At the age of 21, Tchaikovsky started taking music classes at the Russian Musical Society and would attend St. Petersburg Conservatory. During his time there, he gave private piano lessons and in 1863, he relocated to Moscow to take a position at Moscow Conservatory as a professor.
In 1865, Tchaikovsky’s work would be performed in public for the first time, however, in 1868 with his First Symphony which was well received. However The Voyevoda, his first opera was not as successful, but this would not derail him from his love of music.
Tchaikovsky would repurpose some of The Voyevoda material and use it in Oprichnik, his next opera which was performed in St. Petersburg at Maryinsky in 1874 and was received much better.
Around this same time frame, Tchaikovsky Second Symphony was earning its own praise but Vakula the Smith, an opera he wrote and performed in 1874 received critical, harsh reviews.
Still determined to be a successful composer, Tchaikovsky went on to establish himself with his Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat Minor. Acclaim would follow readily in 1875, with his Symphony No. 3 in D Major and the ballet Swan Lake .
During these years of struggling to become a composer, Tchaikovsky was also struggling with his personal life. With rumor of his being a homosexual, he married a young lady in 1877 only for that to end in catastrophe in just a few week after the wedding.
An attempt at suicide during a nervous breakdown would send him fleeing abroad to escape the rumors.
In 1878, with the graciousness of a wealthy widow, Tchaikovsky was able to resign from the Moscow Conservatory. The widow, Nadezhda von Meck would provide a monthly allowance to Tchaikovsky for over ten years, but they would never meet in person, an agreement they had made with each other.
Tchaikovsky would die in November of 1893, never having met his benefactor nor never marrying again.