Only a few works from Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s huge oeuvre have gained general acceptance; however, these are of such an enduring nature that the Russian is ranked among the great com- posers in the history of music. The way the world of music highlights especially his last three symphonies, his Piano Concerto No. 1, his opera Eugen Onegin and his Rococo Variations is nothing less than extraordinary.
Tchaikovsky’s life alternated between tragedy and happiness. He was born on May 7, 1840 in Kamsko-Votkinsk, and received his first piano lessons from his mother at the tender age of five. Even as a child, he was prone to psychosomatic attacks and depressions, which he attempted to combat by composing brilliant pieces on the piano. His parents established the family home in St. Petersburg in 1852, after moving house a number of times. During the following 10 years, Tchaikovsky read law, found employ- ment as a civil servant, travelled throughout Europe as an interpreter and, on the whole, led a carefree and joyous life. He was only sporadically interested in music: his sole artistic activities consisted of evenings spent at the opera or at concerts, and irregular piano lessons.