Today when you utter the name of Pyotr Tchaikovsky everyone knows about who you are speaking of. Even if you do not like ballet, or you are not a fan of classical music, he managed not to be thrown in the ash heap of history. It is almost ironic that his life was not one of being the most loved musician.
Music in the Russian Empire before Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Long before Russia became known for its music and beautiful ballets and the capital was still Moscow, Peter the Great visited European countries. He was shocked that his country was so provincial, and he hired artists from these countries to come to his Russia. Even if the country was not so developed, it was rich so Peter the Great and other rulers after him managed to offer more advantageous salaries to singers, painters, dancers.
And then empress Anna brought a French ballet composer, and the rest is history. This new art (at least in the Russian Empire) brought tears to the Romanovs and they started to pay ballet composers and ballet dancing masters to work in their countries. Sometimes they worked for a couple of years, and sometimes they lived and died here.
But even if this art was adored by the Russian public, they did not believe that you can have a career in art. The entertainers were from other countries, never born on Russian soil.
The birth of a genius
As a child, Pyotr Tchaikovsky loved music. He took piano lessons where he was familiarised with the great compositions. However, his parents dismissed his affinity to music and wanted him to be a civil servant or clerk. They did not even consider that their son could be a musician or composer.
And then his mother died. His father realised that his son really cared for music and allowed him to have a music teacher. It is said that Italian music influenced Tchaikovsky, and this is the moment when this phenomenon happened. Also, now he became familiar with Mozart’s music, another element that can be found in his musical creations.
I mentioned that the composers were never Russian and one reason for this delay is the fact that there was no school that could train people with talent. As soon as Tchaikovsky could enroll at a Russian conservatory, he accepted. He did follow his parents’ dream but quit his job at the Ministry of Justice when he realised that music was what made him happy.
His ballets were not successful. Even the emperor was not impressed with them, and that reception of his creations caused him to be depressed. Can you believe that people did not like Swan Lake?
The relationship with Nadezhda von Meck
And then a widow named Nadezhda von Meck offered him a monthly allowance which gave him the opportunity to quit his job at the Moscow Conservatory and dedicate his time to composing. One condition was that they must not meet, they only sent letters to each other. He was not the first artist that she had sponsored, she was trained in music as a child, and after her husband’s death, her only solace was music. I must admit that their condition to never meet is very strange. Once, two members of their families married, and she refused to go.
This relationship is very special. Without her help, maybe there would not be a Pyotr Tchaikovsky to compose the Nutcracker.
After his death, the Russian Empire did not consider the composer to be Russian enough in his musical pieces. In the Western world, the rumours that he was homosexual prevented them from enjoying his music and ballets, but after some of his letters and journal became public, the public realised that there were no secret codes for homosexuals in his work. Only the Soviets admired him and did not allow anyone to speak ill of the great Russian composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
And today his ballets are still played, not only at the famous Bolshoi Theatre We could never imagine Christmas without seeing Clara battle the mice with the help of the Nutcracker.