Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Biography Part 2
The Tragic Final Years

This is the second page of this Tchaikovsky biography. For the first part, click here.

The Tsar eventually gave Tchaikovsky a life pension and the Order of St. Vladimir, and personally requested a performance of the composer's opera Eugene Onegin. At this point, Tchaikovsky became extremely popular with the public.

He now started to feel more comfortable in society. In 1885 he stopped traveling and went back to live in Russia, in a manor house between Moscow and St Petersburg.

He became a celebrity in Russia, and promoted Russian music. All his life he was enthusiastically proud of being Russian. He hated it when anyone suggested that he might have Polish ancestors.

Once, as a boy, he was looking at a map of Europe. Suddenly, he covered Russia with kisses, and then spat on all the other countries!

He also received some influential musical positions at this late stage of life, such as director of the Moscow branch of the Russian Musical Society.

Once, when he held this position, a percussionist wasn't playing very well during a rehearsal of Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol (conducted by the composer). So Tchaikovsky himself offered to play the castanets!

Click to listen to and explore the dazzling Capriccio Espagnol, a musical picture of Spain

I would have liked to have seen that performance. It wasn't to be, however, as the orchestra was suddenly shocked into obedience by Tchaikovsky's suggestion.

In 1889, he toured around Germany and Switzerland as a conductor. On this trip he met the composers Johannes Brahms and Edvard Grieg. He didn't like Brahms's music, but thought that Grieg's was superb.

Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky died of cholera on November 6, 1893, a few days after drinking unboiled water. His powerful 6th Symphony had its premiere only 10 days earlier.

The Tsar paid for his funeral personally.

Why not explore Tchaikovsky's famous music now that you've read about the great composer's life?

Tchaikovsky biography timeline

1840: Born in Votkinsk
1849: Family moves to St Petersburg
1852: Enters into the School of Jurisprudence
1854: Mother dies
1859: Becomes first-class clerk in the Ministry of Justice
1863: Resigns from the ministry of justice, starts at St Petersburg conservatory
1866: Graduates from the conservatory with a silver medal, moves to Moscow and becomes music professor
1867: Two movements from First Symphony premiered in February
1870: Premiere of Romeo and Juliet
1873: Premiere of Second Symphony, with great success (an ovation after every movement, and a laurel wreath at the end)
1874: Premiere of the opera The Oprichnik, a massive success (Tchaikovsky hated the piece though)
1875: Premiere of First Piano Concerto
1876: Premiere of Swan Lake
1877: Begins correspondence relationship with Nadezhda von Meck
1878: Quits teaching and begins travelling
1884: Awarded Order of St Vladimir by the Tsar
1885: Resettles in Russia
1886: Manfred symphony premiered successfully
1889: Tours Switzerland and Germany conducting
1891: Premiere of the Nutcracker ballet
1893: Awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Cambridge University
1893: 6th Symphony premiered
1893: Death, 6th November

Peter Tchaikovksy's grave

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