Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) is one of the most famous Russian composers. His music is widely known not only in Russia, but also abroad. He is the author of outstanding operas, songs, symphonies, concerts, and ballets. He gave the world Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades, Iolanta, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, The Seasons, The Fifth Symphony, and others. Since 1866, when he became a professor at the Moscow ConservatoryRussian: Moskovskaya konservatoriya or Московская консерватория, he lived and worked in Moscow for extended periods of time. Tchaikovsky’s main (though far from only) address in the capital is the current museum in the town of KlinRussian: Клин 90 km north of Moscow. The estate, where he spent the last years of his life, has preserved the authentic environment of the composer’s home and features many unique objects linked with Tchaikovsky.


Московская консерваторияTchaikovsky moved to the capital after graduating from the Conservatory in Saint Petersburg in 1866 at the age of 26. At this time, the Moscow Conservatory was founded (13/1, Bolshaya NikitskayaRussian: Большая Никитская str.). This milestone event took place thanks to the work of the conductor and pianist Nikolai Rubinstein, whose brother, Anton Rubinstein, was Tchaikovsky’s teacher in Saint Petersburg. The young musician was offered a professorial position at the conservatory which soon became the leading musical education institution in Moscow. Since 1940, the Moscow Conservatory has been named after Tchaikovsky.

Tchaikovsky taught elementary music theory and harmony. He lived not far from where he taught – in a wing of the conservatory. At the time, the conservatory rented a building on the corner of VozdvizhenkaRussian: Воздвиженка street and the Arbatskiye Vorota SquareRussian: ploschad Arbatskikh vorot or площадь Арбатских ворот, which no longer exists today. In the course of time, Tchaikovsky started teaching instrumentation and composition. Initially, there were 20 to 25 students in his classes. Later, however, they numbered as high as 90 at a time. In 1871, he wrote a textbook for conservatories called, ‘A Guide to the Practical Study of Harmony’ – the first course book written on the subject by a Russian author.

In 1878 Tchaikovsky, who had gained wide recognition in Russia, decided to leave his post at the conservatory, as everyday lessons with students were taking time away from his own creative work. Nevertheless, he maintained correspondence with aspiring musicians, giving them advice until the end of his life.

1449_image2_sTchaikovsky frequently moved house in Moscow. Most of those buildings no longer exist. The former Kozakov houseRussian: dom Kozakova or дом Козакова on Kudrinskaya squareRussian: Kudrinskaya ploschad or Кудринская площадь (№ 46/54), where the composer rented a flat in 1872-1873, is an exception. It was here that the music to the fairy tale Cinderella, the Second Symphony, and the symphonic fantasy The Storm were created. Today, the building houses the “P. Tchaikovsky and Moscow” cultural centre and museumRussian: kulturnyi tsentr i muzey «P.I. Chaykovskiy i Moskva» or культурный центр и музей «П.И. Чайковский и Москва». Its display, which occupies nine halls, reflects the spirit of the time, as well as the composer’s life and creative work. The museum contains personal possessions and materials including those directly related to his creative work and performances. It also often organises themed exhibitions.

An incredible number of musical pieces were written in that period in Moscow with operas The Voyevodathe principal commander of a military force, Undina, The Oprichnika member of the Oprichnina, an organization established by Tsar Ivan the Terrible to govern a division of Russia, Vakula the Smith, his first three symphonies (1866, 1872 and 1875), The First Piano Concert (1875), music to Ostrovsky’s fairy tale Cinderella (1873), the cycle of piano pieces Seasons (1876) and Eugene Onegin (1878) being among them. The pinnacle of the decade was Swan Lake (1877). Its successful premiere took place in the Bolshoi TheatreRussian: Bolshoi teatr or Большой театр (1, Teatralnaya squareRussian: Teatralnaya ploschad or Театральная площадь). It was his dedication to Russian history and culture that prompted the creation of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. For the first time ever, a piece of church music was created not in imitation of western European music but instead was inspired by old Orthodox chants.

Tchaikovsky later wrote the Moscow cantata for coronation ceremony of Alexander IIIthe Emperor of Russia from 1881 until his death in 1894, which glorifies the city that united the whole of Rus’ and headed the fight for its release from the yoke of the Tatar Mongol occupationthe Mongol Empire invaded Kievan Rus' in the 13th century, destroying numerous cities.


After his ill-fated marriage in 1877, Pyotr Tchaikovsky left Moscow and travelled a lot around Europe. In the mid-1880s he decided to settle down in the Moscow region where he could work in peace and quiet. Tchaikovsky could not afford his own home. He frequently moved from one rented house to another, always looking for a convenient place. Nadezhda von Meck contributed toward this nomadic life to a great extend. A widow of a prosperous industrialist, she took Tchaikovsky under her patronage. For 12 years, she gave 6000 rubles a year to Tchaikovsky, twice as much as he was paid at the Moscow Conservatory in the last year of his teaching career. Their long-lasting correspondence has been published and these letters are a priceless glimpse into the composer’s thoughts and feelings. It is interesting that they never met in person.

In 1884, Tchaikovsky stayed in Nadezhda von Meck’s estate in PleshcheevoRussian: Плещеево while she was in Moscow, and Tchaikovsky subsequently wrote: “I cannot express the true extent of my admiration for Pleshcheevo to you. Although I could expect the best impression, the reality exceeded my expectations…” The main house of the estate in Pleshcheevo still exists (27, Pleshcheevskaya str., PodolskRussian: ulitsa Pleshcheevskaya, gorod Podolsk or улица Плещееская, город Подольск).

1450_image3_sIn 1885-87, Tchaikovsky rented an estate in MaidanovoRussian: Майданово in Klin. The house no longer exists. Instead, in 1936, a cultural centreRussian: dom kultury or дом культуры was built on the site and is fully restored today. The nearby railway station in Klin, on the way from Moscow to Saint Petersburg had obvious advantages in terms of accessibility to both capitals. In 1891, he returned for the second time and stayed for a year. During that time, he wrote the opera Iolanta and the ballet, The Nutcracker. It was an exceptionally picturesque place. The river SestraRussian: Сестра and the forests inspired him. However, in summertime, the place became overcrowded with people. He did not like the house itself either, as it was “huge, cold, and uncomfortable”. That is why, in 1888, he moved to the Frolovskoye rural areaRussian: selo Frolovskoye or село Фроловское (Klinsky districtRussian: Klinsky rayon or Клинский район, Frolovskoye villageRussian: derevnya Frolovskoe or деревня Фроловское). Tchaikovsky’s house was located away from the rest of the village, which he liked a lot. In this house, he created the opera Queen of Spades, the ballet Sleeping Beauty, and the famous Fifth Symphony. Unfortunately, the house where Tchaikovsky lived no longer exists. The site is now marked with a memorial monument.

In 1892, Pyotr Tchaikovsky moved to a house by Moskovskaya roadRussian: Moskovskaya doroga or Московская дорога on the outskirts of Klin. In this house, he wrote his indisputable masterpiece – the Sixth Symphony. The house is now occupied by a unique museum-reserve (48, TchaikovskogoRussian: Чайковского str., Klin) dedicated to the composer. It was established immediately after Tchaikovsky’s death. The composer’s relatives deserve the credit for its existence, particularly his younger brother, Modest. The rooms and Tchaikovsky’s personal possessions have been preserved in the museum. Unfortunately, the collection was damaged in the years of the Second World War, when Klin was captured by the German troops. Nevertheless, the larger part of the display has remains intact.

1451_image4_sToday, the museum comprises not only the composer’s house, a park, and a nearby two-storey building that was constructed later (complete with exhibition and concert halls and a cafe), but also the Taneevs’ estate, DemiyanovoRussian: Демьяново. Sergei Taneev was an outstanding composer, the author of the opera Oresteia, the cantata John Damascene and was also one of Tchaikovsky’s best students. Tchaikovsky often visited Demiyanovo. He enjoyed coming there to talk to Sergei Taneev and his brother, Vladimir, who was a lawyer and philosopher.

The grand hall in the concert and exhibition centre of the museum-reserve is dedicated to Tchaikovsky, with numerous photos and autographs of the composer on display. It also features a unique exhibit – a genuine record of his voice made with Edison’s phonograph in 1890. Temporary exhibitions about the great composer are held in this hall. For instance, an interesting exhibition dedicated to the history of the International Tchaikovsky CompetitionRussian: Mezhdunarodnyi konkurs im. P.I. Chaykovskogo or Международный конкурс им. П.И. Чайковского took place in this venue in 2016.

Along with the heritage of world-famous people and great museums, there are many attractions in Moscow, which are not so popular, but still very remarkable. Beautiful temples in the Orthodox style, the unusual architecture of the Russian Middle Ages or the recent Soviet era, ballet and drama theaters – on our website you can learn more about Moscow sights.


Памятник Чайковскому в МосквеIn the estate park in the town of Klin, there is a monument to the composer by the sculptor Alexander Rozhnikov. Tchaikovsky is depicted sitting on a bench studying a bundle of sheet music held in his hands. The sculptor placed particular emphasis on Tchaikovsky’s hands, which he represented as large, strong and expressive – the hands of a pianist and a conductor.

Near the building of the Moscow State Conservatory, there is a monument to Tchaikovsky created by one of the best sculptors of 20th century Russia, Vera Mukhina (the sculptor behind the famous statue Worker and Kolkhoz WomanRussian: Rabochiy i kolkhoznitsa or Рабочий и колхозница by the entrance to the VDNKhRussian: ВДНХ (the All-Russian Exhibition of the Achievements of the National EconomyRussian: Vystavka dostizheniy narodnogo khozyaystva<br /><br /><br />
or Выставка достижений народного хозяйства
). Unlike the “chamber” monument in Klin, where Tchaikovsky is the same size as a regular man and stands on a very low base, the Moscow monument interprets him as larger than life. The sculpture is on a raised platform, and as result, the composer’s figure rises above the ground, so that he is in no way dwarfed by the buildings around him. Tchaikovsky is depicted sitting in an armchair, immersed in the creative process. On his right, there is a music stand with a music book on it, and his hand is above it – it looks as if he is about to start writing.

In Moscow, you can also see a painted portrait of the composer. It is kept in the State Tretyakov GalleryRussian: Gosudarstvennaya Tretyakovskaya galereya or Государственная Третьяковская галерея and was created by N. Kuznetsov (1893). It consists of a daring colour arrangement – the composer is depicted in a black suit against black draperies, which helped the artist place emphasis on the face and the hand lying on the music sheets. His eyes are lively and his glance appears full of many thoughts and emotions, none identifiable from the others.

To follow in Tchaikovsky’s footsteps in Moscow, you could go to all the places the composer visited and the museums dedicated to him or enjoy the aforementioned monuments. But you only can truly appreciated the composer’s talent in the concert halls and opera houses where you can still listen to his beautiful music. His operas are staged at the Bolshoi Theatre and the Stanislavsky TheatreRussian: teatr Stanislavskogo or театр Станиславского. You can also watch his ballets in the Grand Kremlin PalaceRussian: Bolshoy Kremlyovskiy dvorets or Большой Кремлевский дворец. His symphonic and chamber works are performed by outstanding musicians at the Grand Hall of the Moscow ConservatoryRussian: Bolshoy zal konservatorii or Большой зал консерватории, at the Philharmonic HallRussian: Filarmoniya or Филармония officially known as the Tchaikovsky Concert HallRussian: Kontsertnyi zal im. Chaykovskogo or Концертный зал им. Чайковского, and in the House of MusicRussian: Dom muzyki or Дом музыки.

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