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Tchaikovsky: 10 things you didn’t know

“Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”

True words from a man who could be described as many things, but lazy certainly wasn’t one of them. Tchaikovsky was a masterful composer whose music spoke from the heart, to the heart. But he was a complicated man too; a troubled soul – and when he was at a low, his inspiration escaped him. Perhaps something many of us can identify with.

Here’s a few things you might not know about the man who gave the world such delights as the Nutcracker, Swan Lake and the 1812 Overture.

1. Tchaikovsky studied law for nine years before deciding on a career in music.

2. Nadezhda von Meck was Tchaikovsky’s most generous patron, supporting him over 14 years. He never actually met her.

3. The Russian suffered from debilitating depression his entire life.

4. One of Tchaikovsky’s most famous and enduring works, the 1812 Overture, was composed in just one week.

5. Tchaikovsky almost binned the score to his First Piano Concerto after Nikolai Rubinstein called it ‘fragmented, so clumsy, so badly written’ and ‘beyond rescue’.

6. For years, it was thought Tchaikovsky died of cholera from contaminated water, but the theory today is that he committed suicide by taking arsenic after being caught in flagrante with the nephew of a high-ranking official.

7. Tchaikovsky was from a large family – he had four brothers and one sister.

8. Walt Disney controversially trademarked the name ‘Princess Aurora’, the lead character in Tchaikovsky’s ballet Sleeping Beauty and Disney’s cartoon of the same name. To add insult to injury, Disney used large swathes of Tchaikovsky’s music in its 1959 cartoon.

9. Tchaikovsky supplemented his income with work as a music critic. Schumann’s orchestration skills were a target of his invective, an opinion which puzzlingly still sticks today.

10. The composer was convinced his head would fall off while he was conducting, and would often hold it up with one hand while directing the orchestra with the other.

Further Reading

If you would like to know more about Tchaikovosky and the history of the piano concerto, click this link

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