Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7th, 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia.
Unlike in many European countries, a serious career in music was not as socially acceptable in Russia during this time. For this reason, Tchaikovsky first studied law and then worked for a few years as a government clerk. His inner drive to become a musician eventually led him to quit his job and, in 1861, enter the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he studied composition under Anton Rubinstein.
After graduating in 1866, Tchaikovsky was employed as a harmony teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. However, he was able to retire when, in 1877, he was granted annuity from Nadezhda von Meck who commissioned him in return for his compositions. Even though, by mutual agreement, the two never met, this arrangement lasted for over a decade until Madame van Meck ended their relationship without explanation in 1809.
Tchaikovsky was known for having an extremely delicate and hypersensitive personality who was prone to hypochondria and extended boughts of depression. In fact, it is said that he attempted suicide on more than one occasion. These characteristic traits are perhaps a catalyst for the passion and extravagant emotionalism found throughout his music.
Of all of his compositions, his contribution to the traditional ballet repertoire is what keeps Tchaikovsky a household name to this day. Three of his most renowned ballets include Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky died of cholera poisoning on November 6th, 1893 in St. Petersburg, Russia at the age of 53.