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Hey Kids, Meet Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky | Composer Biography

from the Hey Kid's Meet the Composer Index

Hey Kids, Meet Tchaikovsky

Peter (Pyotr) Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) Russian Romantic Era Composer

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 in present-day Udmurtia, Russia. His father was a Ukrainian mining engineer. Peter began piano lessons at the age of five, and within three years he could read music as well as his teacher.

In 1850, Peter's father was appointed as the Director of the St. Petersburg Technological Institute. It was there that Peter received his education at the School of Jurisprudence. The only music instruction he received was piano lessons from a piano manufacturer who occasionally made visits to the school. He also attended the opera and theater with his classmates. It was the works of Rossini, Bellini, Verdi and Mozart that he enjoyed the most.

Peter's mother died in 1854, which brought him much sorrow. He responded by turning to music. It was at this time that he made his first serious efforts as a composer, writing a waltz in her memory.

In 1855, Peter's father asked a well-known German piano teacher to encourage his son's interest in music. However, when Peter's father asked about his son's musical potential, his teacher wrote that nothing indicated he would be a fine composer or performer. His father asked Peter to complete his course of study and then pursue a post in the Ministry of Justice. He did as he was asked, though his interest in music never left him.

In 1861, Tchaikovsky heard about classes being offered by the Russian Musical Society. He promptly began his studies. In the following year, Tchaikovsky followed his teacher to the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he accepted a post. It was at the conservatory that he met and studied with Anton Rubinstein, director and founder of the Conservatory. Rubinstein was impressed with Tchaikovsky's talent.

In 1869 Tchaikovsky composed his first recognised masterpiece, the Overture-Fantasy Romeo and Juliet. Tchaikovsky was deeply inspired by Shakespeare's writing, and in later years composed other works for The Tempest and Hamlet.

On November 6, 1893 Tchaikovsky died in St. Petersburg from cholera. His compositions are some of the greatest works of the Romantic Era, including the 1812 Overture, March Slav, and The Nutcracker, which has become a Christmas season favorite.

Watch a Video

Watch a performance of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland.

More Stuff...

Piano Books

Tchaikovsky | Meet the Composer Series Piano Book, Vol. 3

Sheet Music

Swan Lake (Solo) for Easy/Level 1 Piano Solo by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Swan Lake (Duet) Easy/Level 1 Piano Duet by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Beriozka (The Birch Tree) for Easy/Level 2 Piano Solo | 4th Symphony Theme
March Slav for Easy/Level 2 Piano Solo
Trepak (Nutcracker) for Easy/Level 2 Piano Solo
Arabian Dance (Nutcracker) for Easy/Level 3 Piano Solo
Romeo and Juliet (Love Theme) for Easy/Level 3 Piano Solo
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Nutcracker) for Easy/Level 4 Piano
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Nutcracker) for Easy/Level 4 Piano - Play and Learn™
Swan Lake (Theme) for Easy/Level 4 Piano Solo by Tchaikovsky
Swan Lake (Theme) for Easy/Level 4 Piano Solo by Tchaikovsky - Play and Learn™
Chinese Dance (Nutcracker) for Easy/Level 5 Piano Solo
Dance of the Reeds (Nutcracker) for Easy/Level 5 Piano Solo
Theme from 1812 Overture for Easy/Level 5 Piano Solo
March (Nutcracker) for Easy/Level 5 Piano Solo
Waltz of the Flowers (Nutcracker) for Easy/Level 5 Piano Solo


Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky | Word Search
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky | Coloring Page
Meet the Composer Job Application Worksheet
Nutcracker FunLib™ (Tchaikovsky) | Story and Worksheet
Nutcracker Venn Diagram (Tchaikovsky) | Worksheet