Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky was the first Russian composer to make an impact internationally. He was part of a new wave of Russian composers that had taken on the European symphonic style and worked on synthesising it with deeply personal and national writing style. Although he sometimes quoted Russian folksong and Russian Orthodox melodies, the Western European style that he was exposed to during his conservatory training set him apart from the Russian nationalist composers of his era. His repertoire consists of impressive symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, chamber music and sacred works.
Born in 1840, Tchaikovsky showed musical talent from a young age, but received an education that was to prepare him for the civil service. He was appointed to the Ministry of Justice at age 19 but he had other passions. Tchaikovsky’s professional musical training began with music theory classes and composition in 1861. He graduated from St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1865, where, as well as composition, he had also studied piano, flute and organ.
He moved to Moscow in 1866, where he made many significant friends such as Anton Rubinstein as well as Balakirev and other nationalist composers.
Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies respond to western expectations and are technically demanding with beautifully lavish melodies. In his First Symphony, the first theme is a Russian folksong and in the scherzo and trio, another Western pattern, the main theme is made up of a subtle folk motif based on the diminutives in Russian speech. In his Second Symphony, he uses folksong in three out of four movements; but this was the last symphony in which he uses folk melodies so pervasively.