There’s something about those tunes. From Romeo and Juliet to The Nutcracker to the 1812 Overture to the Serenade and symphonies and concertos, Tchaikovsky’s melodies were the first bits of classical music many of us first fell in love with.
But stay with him and you’ll find strength and shuddering emotion. So many of you have, that you voted Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky your No. 4 Most Essential Classical Composer. Some things you may not know:
- We still don’t know for sure how Tchaikovsky died. It was during an outbreak of cholera, but whether it was from that disease, and if so, whether it was self-inflicted, has never conclusively been determined .
- His last name comes from his great-grandfather’s. Fyodor Chaika was a Cossack from Ukraine. Chaika means “seagull.”
- He never met his patroness and correspondent, Nadezhda von Meck .
- Partly because of her support, and later, with a pension from Tsar Alexander III, Tchaikovsky was Russia’s first full-time composer .
- He conducted at the official opening concert of New York’s Carnegie Hall, May 5th, 1891 .
WRTI's Susan Lewis finds that the greatness of Tchaikovsky is more than melody deep. In 1866, he was a young man who had switched careers and was tackling his very first symphony. Susan has more on this early work— titled by the composer, Winter Daydreams.