Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6
By: Gunnar Moll
Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky is one of the most famous Russian composers. He was born in Votkinsk on May 7, 1840 into a middle class family. His family greatly supported his musical interests. They gave him piano lessons and provided him with the instruction of music theory. Their move to St. Petersburg proved to be a significant milestone is Tchaikovsky’s life. It had set the course for Tchaikovsky's progress and success in the musical world.
From September of 1850 to May of 1859, Tchaikovsky attended the School of Jurisprudence. At this boarding school in St. Petersburg, he received an excellent education and further pursued his interest in music. During this time, he received piano lessons from Rudolf Kundinger, a well known piano teacher, and Luigi Piccioli, an Italian master. Both teachers profoundly influenced Tchaikovsky, especially Piccioli who was one of the first to recognize his talent. It was also at the boarding school that Tchaikovsky discovered his sexual orientation. Signs of his homosexuality became apparent, although throughout his life, he tried to keep his homosexuality kept quiet for the risk of a scandal. More inner turmoil followed in 1854 when his mother died. He was so affected with her death that he wrote 26 years later: “Every moment of that appalling day is as vivid to me as though it were yesterday”.
In 1862, Tchaikovsky enrolled in the St. Petersburg Conservatory to focus solely on music. He studied theory and composition, piano, flute and organ under his principal teachers, Anton Rubinstien and Nikolai Zaremba. He also began to compose his first prominent works such as the Characteristic Dances and the String Quartet in B-flat major. After his graduation in 1865, he met opposition with other nationalistic composers due to his studies with the western-oriented Rubinstien. Such disdain for Tchaikovsky’s works was met by a group of the most prominent